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How Astronomers Managed to Take a Photo of a Black Hole

 

No kiddie telescope could’ve pulled this one off.

The internet is still feeling pretty buzzed about the viral first photo of the black hole, not that it’s a surprise.

Although we’ve known that black holes exist for quite some time now, it’s certainly amazing to see one for the first time, and as a picture, no less. Typically, black holes are invisible and cannot be seen, not even by high-grade telescopes. The only way that we know they exist is by observing how nearby matter interacts with them. In other words, we know they’re there because of the way everything is drawn into them in space.

This time, astronomers at NASA decided to use eight telescopes located across the world. Combined, these telescopes are as powerful as a telescope that’s the same size as Earth. The telescopes were used in order to capture different images of the black hole, which were then stitched together to create one clear and very definite image.

The algorithm used to create the stitched-up image was created by Katie Bouman, a 29-year-old computer scientist who is currently working as an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology. Bouman first developed the project three years ago at MIT, alongside a team with members from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT Haystack Observatory, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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