Research

The First Picture Of A Black Hole Was Taken By A Woman

The First Picture Of A Black Hole Was Taken By A Woman

Dr. Bouman is now a post-doctoral fellow at MIT, but will soon start as an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology. She was involved in this project with researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory, and together they were intent upon capturing the image of a black hole.

On her Facebook account, Bouman changed her profile picture with the caption, "Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed". The Blackhole image released instilled a similar reaction from people.

It was the algorithm created by a female graduate student that made the first-ever image of a black hole possible. Trying to capture an object that has a gravitational pull so powerful that not only light can escape would intimidate many but for Bouman and her team, it was all part of the fun.

The project, a collaboration of about 200 scientists - astronomers, engineers, and mathematicians - from around the world linked data collected from a network of radio telescopes scattered across the globe to put together the image.

Dr Bouman could not hide her delight.

"I have an interest in how can we see things or measure things that are thought to be invisible to us", she said.

Alan Marscher, a Boston University astronomer who led one of the teams, joined Bouman and others at a celebration in Washington on Wednesday.

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That historic first photo of a black hole was released to the public on Wednesday after years of work on an global project called Event Horizon Telescope.

The black hole is said to be an inconceivable 6.5 billion times bigger than the sun and is in a galaxy called M87.

The image reveals the black hole at the center of Messier, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster.

And after the image was unveiled to the world on Wednesday, Bouman began earning accolades from fellow scientists, historians and politicians for her significant achievement.

"We have taken the first picture of a black hole - a one-way door out of our universe", Doeleman said. Throughout her talk, she breaks down complexities of programming, imaging and black hole physics in simple (and some, hilarious) metaphors.

"It required the fantastic talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat", she said.

However, they were also aware of two main challenges: the vast distance of the black hole from Earth, and the lack of available data to have a complete image. There has been incredibly strong evidence that black holes exist for a long time, but this still isn't the same as directly observing the thing itself. "What I did was brought the culture of testing ourselves", she says. "I've spent most of my professional life on this, and I'm just really glad we got such great results out of this", Fish said.