Bouman delivered a TED talk in 2016 called "How to take a picture of a black hole", where she explained "getting this first picture will come down to an worldwide team of scientists, an Earth-sized telescope and an algorithm that puts together the final picture".
But when the mind-bending breakthrough finally came nearly a year ago, the discovery had to stay a secret. Bouman's role, when she joined the team working on the project six years ago as a 23-year-old junior researcher, was to help build an algorithm which could construct the masses of astronomical data collected by the telescope into a single coherent image. On a fateful day last summer, Katie Bouman and three fellow researchers filed into a small room at Harvard University, safe from prying eyes, in order to see an image that had been years in the making.
The image of the black hole was taken in a galaxy known as M87, where, for 16 years, astronomers observed stars rotating in an orbit. Its "event horizon" - the precipice, or point of no return where light and matter get sucked inexorably into the hole - is as big as our entire solar system.
"However, since we are only collecting light at a few telescope locations, we are still missing some information about the black hole's image", EHT said. Finally, even after exhaustive efforts to prove themselves wrong, the discovery stood.
"It has been truly an honor, and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you all", Bouman wrote.
The project also plumbed the expertise of scientists at MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford, Boston University, Brandeis University, and the University of MA, among others.
"The gravitational pull of a black hole is so strong nothing can escape, nothing can ever get out of it". There has been incredibly strong evidence that black holes exist for a long time, but this still isn't the same as directly observing the thing itself. "'Yes captain Bouman, that was the first black hole imaged by your ancestor using Earth's pre-warp imaging technology'".
Four teams of scientists worked independently to analyze their data, retrieved over 10 days in April 2017 by telescopes from Mexico to Antarctica to Hawaii.
The scientists didn't talk to other teams about the details of their work as they analyzed their data.
"I have an interest in how can we see things or measure things that are thought to be invisible to us", Bouman told the Post.
Bouman starts teaching as an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology in the fall. Light gets bent and twisted around by gravity in a freakish funhouse effect as it gets sucked into the abyss along with superheated gas and dust, the AP reported. "But we kept getting the ring".
University of Amsterdam scientist Sera Markoff explained, "You're really looking at a super-massive black hole that's nearly the size of our entire solar system".