Scientist Katherine Bouman has become extremely popular after helping create the first ever picture of a black hole. The researcher was one of a team made up of a huge number of experts who helped create the image, which shows the blazing red and yellow of the event horizon that surrounds the first black hole ever to be seen. Dr Bouman used an algorithm, as she wrote, to generate the image that made headlines around the world – has served as a reminder of the vast amount of expertise that has gone into creating such an achievement. “Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed,” she wrote alongside the picture.
Bouman, 29, a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had been working on such an algorithm for almost six years, since she was a graduate student at MIT. She was one of about three dozen computer scientists who used algorithms to process data gathered by the Event Horizon Telescope project, a worldwide collaboration of astronomers, engineers and mathematicians. Telescopes around the world collected high-frequency radio waves from the vicinity of Messier 87 (M87), a galaxy with a supermassive black hole 54 million light-years away.
But atmospheric disturbance and the spareness of the measurements meant “an infinite number of possible images” could explain the data, Bouman said. Well-designed algorithms had to crunch through the chaos. The image shared Wednesday, which has been likened to a molten doughnut or the Eye of Sauron or even a Rembrandt, is a composite of several such reconstructions, sciencealert.com. “We blurred two of the images and then averaged them to the other one to get the image that we showed today,” Bouman said. The ring of material that surrounds M87*, which has the mass of 6.5 billion suns, “is something that we were incredibly confident about,” she concluded.