First came the breathtaking image, the first one to ever show a black hole, in a galaxy about 55 million light-years from Earth.
Katherine Bouman, a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, created an algorithm that assembled the one-of-a-kind picture. And after the image was unveiled to the world on Wednesday, Bouman began earning accolades from fellow scientists, historians and politicians for her significant achievement.
“Given the extent of the use of ‘historic’ today, we are unashamedly and legitimately jumping on the #BlackHolePicture bandwagon. Congratulations Dr. Bouman!” the Royal Historical Society wrote on social media.
Bouman started working on an algorithm as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying electrical engineering and computer science.
She was one of about three dozen computer scientists who used algorithms to process data gathered by the Event Horizon Telescope project, a worldwide collaboration of astronomers, engineers and mathematicians.Telescopes around the world collected high-frequency radio waves from the vicinity of Messier 87, a supermassive black hole 54 million light-years away. But atmospheric disturbance and the spareness of the measurements meant “an infinite number of possible images” could explain the data, Bouman said. Well-designed algorithms had to crunch through the chaos.
When the first-ever image was unveiled Wednesday, it prompted overwhelming excitement online, not only for science but also for the scientist behind it.
“I am inspired by Katie Bouman,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of U.N. Women, wrote on Twitter.
And Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “add me to the #KatieBouman fan club.”
Such sentiment was shared across social media.
Y'all, I love that Dr. Katie Bouman is trending. I didn't know her name until this evening, but numerous folks thought: "we'll be damned if another woman is overlooked for her credit in a scientific breakthrough", and here we are.— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) April 10, 2019
I just really love that.
Wow it’s just so cool seeing concerned men popping up to say Katie Bouman doesnt deserve the credit for the team she led & the algorithm she wrote while literally none of them can name a single SpaceX scientist but breathlessly tell us how Elon Musk invented both space AND time— Catherynne Valente (@catvalente) April 11, 2019
Congratulations to Katie Bouman to whom we owe the first photograph of a black hole ever. Not seeing her name circulate nearly enough in the press.— Tamy Emma Pepin (@TamyEmmaPepin) April 10, 2019
Amazing work. And here’s to more women in science (getting their credit and being remembered in history) 💥🔥☄️ pic.twitter.com/wcPhB6E5qK
Congratulations to Katie Bouman on #CrackingTheCode that made the 1st image of a black hole possible and to all the women involved in the #EHTBlackHole success! 👏👏— UNESCO (@UNESCO) April 11, 2019
This is why we need more #WomenInScience, because more diversity = better science! 👩🏿🏫👩🏻🔬👩🏽🚀👩🏼🏭👩🏾💻 pic.twitter.com/ZM4ZIXFVBw