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Black hole image gives Twitter a field day

12 April 2019

At MIT, Dr. Bouman led the project assisted by a team from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory.

The tell-tale shadow at the center of the black hole ended up being clearly visible in the picture.

The black hole photo has some pretty distinct features, including a golden orange ring that reminded people on the internet of a ton of different things. The caption suggests it was taken at the very moment the image was processed.

Vincent Fish, a research scientist at the observatory, said Haystack served as an equipment clearinghouse, sending special components and systems for recording data from the black hole project to observatories worldwide.

Bouman joined the Event Horizon Telescope project team six years ago.

Her profile picture on Facebook was captioned: "Watching in disbelief as the first image ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed". In a photograph shared on Facebook, Bouman shows her surprised self reacting to the historical picture being processed.

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"No one algorithm or person made this image", she said. "And how can we come up with unique ways to merge the instrumentation and algorithms to get at measuring things that you can't measure with standard instruments". With the increased perspective and power, she says, they just might be able to make movies of black holes in addition to still images. "We are trying to bring in graduate students and postdocs and a younger generation that is excited to work on this". The Blackhole image released instilled a similar reaction from people.

Bouman's algorithm - CHIRP (or Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) - uses the sparse data collected from telescopes to help choose and verify an image to help fill in the gaps.

"It has been truly an honour, and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you all". They were tasked with essentially hitting go on a supercomputer that would combine the data from each telescope and finally reveal the image the world was anxiously waiting to see.

"No matter what we did, you would have to bend over backwards insane to get something that wasn't this ring", Bouman said. In the video, she also explained why the ring of light surrounding the black hole is brighter at the bottom than at other places. "So that's what we were kind of testing". "We just expected a blob".

Bouman did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for an interview.

Bouman starts teaching as an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology in the fall.

Black hole image gives Twitter a field day