In 2016, Katie Bouman, a then-Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, presented a TEDx Talk on how to take a picture of a black hole, outlining a method that uses complex algorithms to accurately reconstruct images from far, far away. Now, three years later, mankind has its first-ever image of a black hole, thanks to those same algorithms developed by Bouman and her team.
The image, released yesterday by the Event Horizon Telescope project, provides the “first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.” It’s an image years in the making — one that required a global network of eight telescopes and an international team of over 200 astronomers, physicists, mathematicians, and engineers.
Bouman’s work on the project began three years ago while at MIT, according to BBC. There, she and her team “developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms” in an attempt to recover an image from the four petabytes of data captured by the aforementioned telescopes, Bouman told CNN.
“We didn’t want to just develop one algorithm,” she said. “We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them. If all of them recover the same general structure, then that builds your confidence.”
“Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed,” Bouman wrote on Facebook
Jordan is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow him on Twitter @jdsirani.
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