Why the world is talking about Katie Bouman

James Marshall
April 11, 2019

The first image of a black hole became a meme as people compared it to things like food.

Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Katie Bouman for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

That's where Bouman and her team went to work. "However, you might be surprised to know that that may soon change", Bouman said. "The ring came so easily. We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole", announced Sheperd Doeleman of Harvard, leader of the project.

Alan Marscher, a Boston University astronomer who led one of the teams, joined Bouman and others at a celebration in Washington on Wednesday. "I hadn't even told my family about the picture".

Ms Bouman was also hailed by MIT and the Smithsonian on social media. Of course, senior scientists worked on the project, but the imaging portion was mostly led by junior researchers, such as graduate students and post docs. Overall, studies suggest that only about 30% of the world's researchers are women.

Meanwhile, other Twitter users began comparing Bouman to past female hidden figures including Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering molecular biologist who contributed to our modern understandings of DNA, and Margaret Hamilton, the largely unknown MIT female computer scientist who pioneered the "software" technology that landed astronauts on the moon.

Through the effort of scientists across the globe, the supermassive black hole was photographed in the middle of the Messier 87 galaxy within the Virgo galaxy cluster, about 55 light years away from MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford, Mass.

"I think it looks very convincing", said Andrea Ghez, director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group, who wasn't part of the discovery team.

A global network of telescopes known as the Event Horizon Telescope project collected millions of gigabytes of data about M87 using a technique known as interferometry.

The data from the telescopes around the world was gathered two years ago, but it took years to complete the processing of the data. Bouman recalls feeling complete disbelief when her team ran their first tests and saw the ring they hoped would appear. "As long as you're excited and you're motivated to work on it, then you should never feel like you can't do it", she told TIME.

"BBC News, Could Katie get a mention in the article itself and not just a credit on the photo?" wrote one user. Her advice for the next generation of women in STEM? "It's going to telescopes at 15,000 feet", she says. We have spent an enormous amount of time making sure that what we were seeing was actually real and not just something that, even subconsciously, we might have imposed on the data.

Bouman is still starting out in her own career.

Bouman starts teaching as an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology in the fall. On Wednesday that image was finally released. 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.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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