Why the world is talking about Katie Bouman

The MIT Computer Scientist Whose Algorithm Led To The First Real Image Of A Black Hole

The project coordinated measurements from six radio telescopes from observatories across the globe to overcome the issue that no single telescope antenna dish in the world is large enough to capture the radio waves from a black hole.

While the entire world was celebrating the first ever image released of the Supermassive Black Hole on Wednesday, a woman, MIT graduate Katie Bouman, among others in her team, was feted extensively on the internet for being the leading "star" behind the image. Originally from IN, her father is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University.

That's where Bouman and her team went to work.

Then came the giddy realization that the remarkable, years-in-the-making moment would not have been possible without the work of a 29-year-old female scientist, who has now claimed a special spot in history.

The very first image of a black hole, made possible by Dr. Katie Bouman's algorithm, has inspired a flurry of space related memes.

Katherine "Katie" Bouman, a postdoctoral fellow with the Event Horizon Telescope, created the algorithm that stitched together data from the global network of satellites that produced the historic image. She's heading to the California Institute of Technology this year where she will be an assistant professor in the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences.

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Without her contribution, scientists were unable to fill in the gaps of data necessary to capture the image from a galaxy 55 million light years away. Black holes have extremely strong gravity, meaning anything that enters its event horizon, or point of no-return is swallowed up, according to NASA.

"Why not name it the Bouman Black Hole, and get scifi writers slip a reference into their characters' lines?" one Twitter user suggested. In addition, black holes by definition are supposed to be invisible - although they can give off a shadow when they interact with the material around them.

Feryal Ozel, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona who was the modeling and analysis lead on the project, told ABC News the gender breakdown was "pretty dismal", noting that there were about three senior women, including herself, out of about 200 total scientists on the project.

The black hole is about 6 billion times the mass of our sun and is in a galaxy called M87. And while that doesn't make her any more deserving of applause - Bouman emphasizes that the project was "a team effort" - it does make her a potential role model for young girls who lack examples compared to their male peers. "We are trying to change that", she said.

Jessica Dempsey, another co-discoverer and deputy director of the East Asian Observatory in Hawaii, said the fiery circle reminded her of the flaming Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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