When the world was talking about the biggest ever black hole news, not many knew who were the people behind the massive discovery. It was an algorithm that made it possible to create the first image ever of a black hole, and the algorithm was created by a a 29-year-old computer scientist Katie Bouman.
Katie Bouman led development of the computer programme while she was still a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In a photograph shared on Facebook, Bouman shows her surprised self reacting to the historical picture being processed.
The 29-year-old has earned praise worldwide for her feat.
The first ever black hole image released by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) as its first results at a press conference on Wednesday shows a halo of dust and gas located 500 million trillion km from the Earth.
“Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed,” she wrote in her Facebook post.
At MIT, according to a BBC report, Bouman started making the algorithm three years ago and led the project, assisted by a team from the institute’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory.
Bouman has named the algorithm CHIRP (Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) and it was needed to combine data from the eight radio telescopes around the world working under EHT, and turn it into a cohesive image.
According to MIT, Event Horizon Telescope collected so much data that it had to be shipped to the MIT Haystack Observatory on half a tonne of hard drives.
Left: MIT computer scientist Katie Bouman w/stacks of hard drives of black hole image data.
Right: MIT computer scientist Margaret Hamilton w/the code she wrote that helped put a man on the moon.
— MIT CSAIL (@MIT_CSAIL) April 10, 2019
According to her website, Bouman is currently a postdoctoral fellow with EHT and will start as an assistant professor in Caltech’s computing and mathematical sciences department.