Science/Tech

Black Hole Photo: Meet The Woman Behind The Stunning Image Of Space Region

April 2019 just became a memorable date for the entire world. On Wednesday, scientists revealed the very first official image of a black hole taken through the Event Horizon Telescope.

But the photo not only gave a new information to support Albert Einstein's theories of gravity, as it also adds to the growing contribution of women to the previously male-led space community. Katie Bouman, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is part of the international team of more than 200 astronomers that captured the black hole’s image. 

Bouman helped develop a computer program during her academic days at MIT, which was used to compile photos from eight radio telescopes around the world to create image of the black hole. She also led the tests to verify the images, CNET reported Wednesday.

Bouman has been gaining popularity on social media after her photos surfaced showing her celebrating her team’s success. 

In one photo from the BBC, Bouman appeared next to a table stacked with hard drives of data, which some people found reminiscent of the 1969 image of Margaret Hamilton with the printout of the Apollo guidance software code she and her team developed.

Bouman also posted a photo on Facebook expressing her reaction after she saw the black hole images.

Bouman’s Black Hole-Hunting Program

Bouman led a team that created an imaging algorithm to capture images of distant black holes. The image captured by the program was of a black hole supermassive that its shadow appear at the center of a galaxy, known as M87, CNN reported Thursday

During the algorithm’s development at MIT, Bouman was a graduate student in computer science and artificial intelligence. 

Her algorithm mainly worked to compile millions of gigabytes of data from the Event Horizon Telescope about M87.  

"We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image," Bouman told CNN. "No matter what we did, you would have to bend over backwards crazy to get something that wasn't this ring."

"[Bouman] was a major part of one of the imaging subteams," according to Vincent Fish, a research scientist at MIT's Haystack Observatory.

"One of the insights Katie brought to our imaging group is that there are natural images. Just think about the photos you take with your camera phone, they have certain properties. If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it," he added. 

Bouman is set to start her new career as an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology in the fall.

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