Black hole genius Katie Bouman takes her place among stars

The first-ever image of a black hole was released Wednesday

The first-ever image of a black hole was released Wednesday

Users took to Twitter to appreciate and some even had requests as #blackhole becomes a trending topic on Twitter.

She led the project alongside a team from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the MIT Haystack Observatory and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Katherine Bouman had a secret: An algorithm she'd developed had stitched together a picture of a black hole.

Does a black hole seem like the internet's usual meme fodder?

On Wednesday, almost a year after scientists at the Black Hole Initiative in Cambridge applauded their discovery in private, Bouman and 200 other scientists - many of them from the Boston area - finally could speak about what many astronomers and others had thought impossible. No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the incredible talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat.

When she joined the team six years ago, Bouman didn't know a thing about black holes.

The project also plumbed the expertise of scientists at MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford, Boston University, Brandeis University, and the University of MA, among others.

The black hole image, captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) - a network of eight linked telescopes - was rendered by Dr Bouman's algorithm.

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The black hole was first theorised by Albert Einstein to explain areas in space of dense matter, where even light itself can not escape.

The black hole in the constellation Virgo is seen as a dark shadow inside that circle, an enormous opening that is the size of our solar system and about 6 billion times the mass of the sun. There has been incredibly strong evidence that black holes exist for a long time, but this still isn't the same as directly observing the thing itself. Over the years, physicists and engineers had seen orbits, galaxies and move in a slingshot whirling motion around what many thought could be a black hole.

Alan Marscher, professor of astronomy at Boston University.

The Event Horizon Telescope is formed from data from telescopes located around the world in Hawaii, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Arizona, and the Antarctic.

The scientists didn't talk to other teams about the details of their work as they analyzed their data. "We are trying to change that", she said.

But last summer, when the teams gathered at the Black Hole Initiative to share their findings, the startling similarities prompted an outpouring of celebration and awe.

Bouman, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at MIT, is due to take up a post as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, but intend to keep working with EHT. 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.

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