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Katie Bouman: Meet the woman who gave us first ever image of black hole

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 11 April 2019, 02:27 PM
Katie Bouman is now a postdoctoral fellow working with the Event Horizon Telescope team (Photo: Twitter)
Katie Bouman is now a postdoctoral fellow working with the Event Horizon Telescope team (Photo: Twitter)

Astronomers on Wednesday revealed the first photo of a black hole which was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the world. Katie Bouman, an MIT graduate, helped develop a computer program while still in school. Along with others, it helped create the image of the black hole. Bouman is now a postdoctoral fellow working with the Event Horizon Telescope team that released the revolutionary photograph.

“Just like how radio frequencies will go through walls, they pierce through galactic dust. We would never be able to see into the centre of our galaxy in visible wavelengths because there’s too much stuff in between,” Bouman told a portal in 2016, adding, “Taking a picture of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy is] equivalent to taking an image of a grapefruit on the moon, but with a radio telescope.”

“Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed,” she later posted a picture on Facebook.

Using data from six telescopes located across the world, the scientists involved in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project have imaged the Sagittarius A* -- the blackhole located at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy -- and another massive black hole 53.5 million light-year away in galaxy M87. The results were announced at 6.30 pm IST on Wednesday.The gravitational pull of black holes lets nothing -- not even particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light -- escape from inside it.

This makes imaging a blackhole nearly impossible. Blackholes swallow the surrounding gas, which swirls around in a flattened disk, spiralling into it at speeds close to light. The radiation from this hot whirlpool, however, can be seen.

Scientists have imaged this radiation, expecting to see the shadow of the blackhole against it.

Sagittarius A* has a mass approximately four million times that of the Sun, but it only looks like a tiny dot from Earth, 26 000 light-years away. 

First Published: Thursday, April 11, 2019 02:27 PM
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