Meet the 29-year-old woman behind the first-ever black hole image

Published Fri, Apr 12 2019 • 2:58 AM EDTKaren Gilchrist@_KARENGILCHRIST

The world was mesmerized this week by the first-ever image of a black hole, captured by a network of eight linked telescopes known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration.

But in the days since, attention has turned to a second image: That of the 29-year-old woman who made it all possible.

Computer scientist Dr. Katie Bouman has been credited with leading the creation of an algorithm that successfully photographed the halo of dust and gas situated 500 million trillion kilometers from Earth.ADVERTISING

A photo of Bouman bracing herself for the groundbreaking release has been widely shared on social media.

In a post on her Facebook account, the young scientist wrote: “Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.”

Bouman started work on the computer program three years ago, while she was a graduate student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

While there, she was responsible for leading the project, with assistance from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory.

The algorithm was then used to render data captured by the EHT to render the millions of gigabytes of data it has collected during its decade-long mission to photograph the black hole.

“When we saw it for the first time, we were all in disbelief. It was quite spectacular,” Bouman told BBC Radio 5 live.

Following the release of the image, Bouman has received international plaudit for her years-long work — including from celebrities and politicians.

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a vocal proponent of women in leadership, praised Bouman’s “enormous contribution to the advancements of science and mankind.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez@AOC

Take your rightful seat in history, Dr. Bouman!

Congratulations and thank you for your enormous contribution to the advancements of science and mankind.

Here’s to #WomenInSTEM!
Tamy Emma Pepin@TamyEmmaPepinCongratulations to Katie Bouman to whom we owe the first photograph of a black hole ever. Not seeing her name circulate nearly enough in the press.

Amazing work. And here’s to more women in science (getting their credit and being remembered in history)
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Crystal Carson

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