Why the world is talking about Katie Bouman

Katie Bouman, a computer scientist and a postgraduate fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, devised an algorithm that led to the creation of the image of the black hole that was published on Wednesday.

"Why not name it the Bouman Black Hole, and get scifi writers slip a reference into their characters' lines?" one Twitter user suggested.

From Antartica to Hawaii, telescopes positioned throughout the world collected light emitted from the black hole which is 6.5 billion times more massive than the sun.

They took the "sparse and noisy data" that the telescopes spit out and tried to make an image. Finally, even after exhaustive efforts to prove themselves wrong, the discovery stood.

Bouman said in an interview with Nature that the breakthrough is just the beginning of learning more about black holes.

The project also plumbed the expertise of scientists at MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford, Boston University, Brandeis University, and the University of MA, among others.

To put the challenge into perspective, the black hole that was captured, known as M87 is larger than the size of our entire solar system, it's about three million times the size of the Earth.

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Black holes are areas so massive they warp space and time so much that even light can not escape.

The first image of a black hole became a meme as people compared it to things like food.

The team faced the impossible task of figuring out a way to combine the masses of data from the telescopes that formed the Event Horizon Telescope network. They didn't even tell their families about the results, Bouman said.

Does a black hole seem like the internet's usual meme fodder? For Katie Bouman, it was all that, plus the culmination of three years of work, the realization of a goal that scientists thought to be impossible, and the event that will launch her into history.

At just 29, Dr. Kate Bouman has done something few others have: made history. In order to do that, the team needed algorithms that could distill all that noisy, messy information into one comprehensible picture. Some people remarked that the photo is reminiscent of an iconic 1969 image of Margaret Hamilton with the printout of the Apollo guidance software code she and her team developed.

"It's not that common in science that you can get such a clean confirmation of such a theoretical explanation", Marscher said. The now near century-old theory has been puzzling scientists for decades. MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford was one of the sites where the data was assembled, The Boston Globe reports.

Haystack also received disks with recorded data from those observatories and processed them in a supercomputer.



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