Capture of black hole image made possible by new algorithm for image reconstruction

Published April 11, 2019, 9:06 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By MB Online

The first-ever image of a Black Hole was unveiled on Wednesday and it would not be possible were it not for computer scientist Katherine Bouman.

Computer Scientist Katherine Bouman (YOUTUBE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Computer Scientist Katherine Bouman (YOUTUBE / MANILA BULLETIN)

The 29 year old scientist, a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, led the creation of the new algorithm named CHIRP (Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) which was used by the Event Horizon Telescope project, a worldwide collaboration of astronomers, engineers and mathematicians, to produce the first-ever image of a black hole.

Researchers said the algorithm was needed to combine the data from the eight radio telescopes around the world which were used to collect high-frequency waves from the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy to capture the image of the supermassive black hole.

“We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image,” Bouman said in an interview with CNN.

“We didn’t want to just develop one algorithm. We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them. If all of them recover the same general structure, then that builds your confidence.”

She added that no one of them could have done it alone. “It came together because of lots of different people from many backgrounds.”

A photo of Bouman posted on Twitter circulated on social media as netizens say it is also important to acknowledge women scientists.

Bouman has spent years developing and testing those methods that helped create the image of the black hole.

She took computer science and electrical engineering, and eventually worked under Event Horizon Telescope, the international collaboration that captured the black hole image, while she is pursuing her Ph.D. in computer vision.