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Katie Bouman – The woman behind the first black hole picture

Katie-Bouman, black hole picture

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The first picture of black hole made her famous overnight. The 29-year-old American computer scientist Katie Bouman has made a decisive contribution to researchers around the world, the first recording of these objects has succeeded in space. She developed the computer algorithm that allowed the composition of the image from data from huge radio telescopes.

“I’m so excited that we can finally show what we’ve been working on for the past year,” Bouman cheered Wednesday on her site on the online network Facebook, after the sensational recording was released.

The researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the state of Massachusetts in 2016 had developed the algorithm called “Chirp”. It made it possible to sift through the gigantic data volumes of the global radio telescope network Event Horizon and to create a picture of it.
The data was four petabytes in volume. That’s four quadrillion bytes – a number with 15 zeros. The data was stored on a veritable mountain of hard disks weighing several hundred kilos. The hard drives had to be physically taken to Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts for their sighting. To ensure the accuracy of the “chirp” image, the Astrophysics Center had the algorithm of four separate teams applied to the data. After a month’s work, the groups then presented shots that were very similar.

“That was the happiest moment I’ve ever had,” Bouman told The Wall Street Journal. It was fascinating that all teams had a very similar picture of the black hole won. The young scientist pointed out that creating the image was the result of teamwork. It required the “incredible talent of a team of scientists from around the globe.” Bouman works as a postdoctoral fellow at the Astrophysics centre on the US East Coast. In autumn, she will join the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in Pasadena as an assistant professor.

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