Katie Bouman – The Scientist Behind the First Black Hole Image

The world is moving in the direction of forward, unless you ask astronomers and they provide you with an overly precise answer. But, regarding science and technology, the world is definitely moving forward, meaning evolving. What used to be insanely difficult and needed an entire room, let’s say, a computer, now fits in your hand or if you want something a bit more powerful, in your backpack. For scientists, this advancement of technology means that they can commit their time to research and not worry about the tech holding them back. This, and through the work of multiple scientists as well as Katie Bouman, is how we got the first graphic image of a black hole.

Katie Bouman – Early Life

Katie Bouman was born in either 1989 or 1990, the information isn’t clear on the specific date. She did, however, grow up in West Lafayette, Indiana and also finished high school there. Her father, being an electrical engineer and professor at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, had a big influence on her. She started studying computer imaging even in her high school years, doing research at the university. She studied electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. She got her master’s degree in 2013. She also got a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science in 2017. Her work prior to working on the Event Horizon Telescope project is impressive, but helping capture the first black hole imagine is even more impressive.

Victuallers [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

This is a collaboration between multiple academies, research centers and universities all over the world. The EHT is a huge telescope array which uses very-long-baseline interferometry to capture images of very distant objects, primarily black holes. The project was started in 2009 and there had been plenty of work trying to capture images of Sagittarius A, a bright radio source from the center of the Milky Way.

Event Horizon Telescope [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

It wasn’t until April 10, 2019 that a real breakthrough was made. The team was able to capture an image of a black hole, or rather, a shadow of a supermassive black hole, in the galaxy Messier 87. Once captured, the image confirmed that much of our theoretical knowledge of black holes is on point. Needless to say, Katie Bouman did her part in helping capture the first (hopefully of many) image of a black hole.

The project itself is still aiming at the stars, trying to capture more and more images. Now that the first image was taken, the following images will likely be easier to capture. Katie Bouman, who will still be a part of the EHT team, is also an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology.

From an interested child to a professor at the California Institute of Technology, not to mention one of the people who helped create the first image of a black hole, Katie Bouman is a scientist in every sense of the word. What more can we expect from here? Hopefully, more discoveries and breakthroughs.