First Black Hole Photographed – Women in Science and Technology

Black Hole | authorsteveboseley.com
Image from wired.com

I couldn’t let this week pass without mentioning the astonishing advancement made by MIT graduate Dr Katie Bouman.

The image you can see above is the FIRST EVER image taken of a supermassive black hole. In the male-dominated field of science and technology, her work in creating an algorithm to capture the image is even more impressive, and should rightfully catapult the 29 yr old to a place in history and should hopefully pave the way for other girls and women to move into the fields of science and technology.

I’m not suggesting women haven’t done anything in the way of science and technology throughout history, I’m just saying we don’t hear about it nearly as much as the men. Here’s just a few women that have have advanced the fields of science and technology:

  • Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) – German astronomer.  She has a comet, an asteroid, a crater on the Moon and a space telescope named after her. She even has a Google Doodle.
  • Lise Meitner Austrian-Swedish physicist (1878-1968) – in the 1930s she was one of Germany’s foremost nuclear scientists. Albert Einstein called her Germany’s Marie Curie.
  • Mary Anning (1799 – 1847) Fossil Hunter – found thousands of fossils and helped draw a picture of the marine world of 150 million years ago.
  • Mary Sommerville (1780-1872) Mathematician – she produced a series of writings on astronomy, chemistry, physics and mathematics.  One of the first 2 women (Caroline Herschel) to be named honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society.
  • Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) Astronomer – became the first female astronomy professor in the United States
  • Irène Curie-joliot (1897 – 1956) Physicist – Daughter of Marie Curie. Won Nobel prize, discovered artificial radioactivity.
  • Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) Geneticist – Crick and Watson are credited with the discovery of DNA, but it relied heavily on the work of Rosalind Franklin.
  • Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852) Mathematician – The founder of scientific computing and the first computer programmer.
  • Valentina Tereshkova (1937 – present) Astronaut – The first woman in space (1963)

The image above was captured over 5 days by telescopes around the world in a collaboration known as the Event Horizon Telescope. It shows luminous gas swirling round the black hole. The black hole’s event horizon is the edge of a spacetime abyss , where gravity is so strong it can prevent even light from escaping it.

When I say supermassive, I mean it. This baby is

6.5 billion times the mass of the sun

but from Earth it only a tiny tiny spec in the sky. It would be like spotting a doughnut on the moon from your front garden.

Dr Bouman worked on the algorithm for 3 years, culminating in the amazing image you see above.

We need more recognition of women in traditionally male-dominated fields, like science and technology. Shout about her, Tweet about her.

My question to you: should Dr Bouman be mentioned alongside those names above?

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