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Meet Katie Bouman, the 29-year-old scientist who helped make the world's first black hole image

Black hole image reveals cosmic first

The first-ever photo of a black hole released Wednesday has mesmerized the world. Behind the out-of-this-world project is 29-year-old computer scientist Dr. Katie Bouman, who helped form the algorithm that made the visualization a reality. 

Once considered impossible, the image captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) shows a black central core — the event horizon — surrounded by a lopsided ring of light emitted by particles racing around the black hole at nearly the speed of light. A team of over 200 researchers, including Bouman, made it happen. 

"Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed," the EHT postdoctoral fellow wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. 

She began developing the new formula three years ago as a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute Technology (MIT), according to the university. Bouman continued to work on the project with the assistance of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and MIT Haystack Observatory -- the last two being part of the 13 institutes involved in the EHT collaboration.

From Antartica to Hawaii, telescopes positioned throughout the world collected light emitted from the black hole which is 6.5 billion times more massive than the sun. EHT explained the light gives an "indication of the structure of the black hole," but not the whole story. 

"However, since we are only collecting light at a few telescope locations, we are still missing some information about the black hole's image," EHT said. "The imaging algorithms we develop fill in the gaps of data we are missing in order to reconstruct a picture of the black hole."

Upon its release, Bouman became a sensation online after MIT shared an image of her Twitter that went viral. 

Bouman, who currently an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology, deflected on her newfound fame, instead crediting everyone on her team in another Facebook post

"No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing 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.

"It has been truly an honor, and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you all," she wrote.

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