Women in science

The first photo of a black hole was made possible by this woman: Katie Bouman, the engineer who remembers Margaret Hamilton

It is the scientific news of the year: we already have the first photo of a black hole. Until now, its existence was known only by indirect methods, but one had never been able to observe one. In addition, in this important discovery a woman has played a fundamental role.

Is called Katie Bouman, is 29 years old and is a computer engineer recently graduated from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She, I think the algorithm that helped make the photo of this black hole located in the M87 galaxy, about 55 million light years from Earth.

Called CHIRP (Continous High-resolution Image Reconstruction), this algorithm allowed, more specifically, rebuild the image, like a puzzle, from the data collected by the Event Horizon telescope.

Although it should be noted that the Event Horizon is not a telescope in itself but eight radio observatories connected in a network that spans Antarctica, Chile, Spain, the United States and Mexico. This was created a camera the size of the Earth with which they were collected approximately 350 terabytes of data.

Bouman's algorithm was crucial not only to convert that data into an image but also to filter out noise caused by atmospheric humidity, as explained The guardian.

After devising the algorithm, Bouman went on to lead a series of tests intended to ensure that the images were not the result of some kind of technical failure or chance.

However, given the media attention that the scientist is receiving as a result of the publication of the image, she did not want to claim credit. Through a message on your Facebook account, He has highlighted the work of a team of scientists from all over the world through years of hard work:

"The algorithm of a single person has not achieved this image. It took the incredible talent of a team of scientists from around the world and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods and analysis techniques necessary to achieve this impossible feat. It has been a true honor and I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with all of you. "

Currently, Katie Bouman is a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and an associate professor at the California Institute of Technology. Here you can see it in 2017 in a very interesting TED talk about what it is like to take a picture of a black hole.

To congratulate her, MIT has shared a snapshot of the engineer with the hard drives where black hole data was stored. A nice tribute in which they have also included a photo of another former member of MIT: Margaret Hamilton.

Left: MIT computer scientist Katie Bouman w / stacks of hard drives of black hole image data.
Right: MIT computer scientist Margaret Hamilton w / the code she wrote that helped put a man on the moon.
(image credit @floragraham) #EHTblackhole #BlackHoleDay #BlackHole pic.twitter.com/Iv5PIc8IYd

- MIT CSAIL (@MIT_CSAIL) April 10, 2019

Hamilton is credited with the writing of the software code that allowed NASA the mission to the Moon, a feat that reminds a lot of Bouman's. Undoubtedly, these are two women who have not only helped to change the history of science but also to name a woman, breaking stereotypes and paving the way for the scientists of the future.

Video: Meet the 29-year-old woman behind the first image of a black hole (January 2020).