Meet Katie Bouman, the Genius behind the Blackhole Photograph!

Olivia Munn

Olivia Munn

The photographed black hole, for instance, is 500 million trillion km away from Earth.

This is Dr Katie Bouman.

While her reaction to such a groundbreaking discovery is quite modest, based on the pictures she posted on Facebook and reports from her team, we can't ignore the fact that her scientific contributions will be remembered and cherished for a long time.

The New York Times wrote that Bouman "accidentally became the face of the black hole project" because "many nonscientists on social media overstated her role in what was a group effort by hundreds of people, creating an exaggerated impression as the photo was shared and reshared".

She started making the algorithm three years ago while she was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Bouman, 29, a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had been working on such an algorithm for nearly six years, since she was a graduate student at MIT.

"As the Earth rotates, we get to see other new measurements", she continued. "It was quite spectacular", she told BBC Radio 5 live.

We get this partial information.

What we have to end up doing is imposing things called "regularizors" or "priors" that allow us to say, "Okay, of all of the images that possibly could fit this data, this set of images is most likely".

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In the hours after the photo's momentous release, Dr Bouman became an global sensation, with her name trending on Twitter. Three years ago, she led the creation of a new algorithm to produce the first-ever image of a black hole, an image that captured the world's attention on Wednesday. "Today, that image was released".

According to her website, Bouman is now a postdoctoral fellow with EHT and will start as an assistant professor in Caltech's computing and mathematical sciences department.

"We didn't want to just develop one algorithm", she said.

'Katie Bouman very clearly did not invent the algorithm, nor was she a significant member of the engineering team, ' another added. Amid the hype of honoring such an incredible feat for women in STEM, most people missed this discrepancy. She was also the one who led testing to verify the images, which by itself is a huge task.

Black holes, phenomenally dense celestial entities, are extraordinarily hard to observe despite their great mass.

In separate experiments, according to the MIT note, she extracted patches from astronomical images and from snapshots of terrestrial scenes, but the choice of training data had little effect on the final reconstructions. It's an image years in the making - one that required a global network of eight telescopes and an worldwide team of over 200 astronomers, physicists, mathematicians, and engineers.

She spearheaded a testing process whereby multiple algorithms with "different assumptions built into them" attempted to recover a photo from the data. That method would ultimately prove successful, as all four teams were able to create "very similar" images, resulting in the release of yesterday's historic photo.

How to See a Black Hole: The Universe's Greatest Mystery can be seen in the United Kingdom on BBC iPlayer.

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