OBSERVING the black hole is like listening to a song being played on a piano with broken keys, says US computer scientist Katie Bouman, who became a global sensation for her role in capturing the world’s first actual image of a black hole.
Bouman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, was speaking on Thursday before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the US House of Representatives.
She said the computational imaging tools that the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team developed to study black holes could help improve technologies of the future, saving lives by improving the quality of medical images, seismic predictions, and even the performance of self-driving cars. Unlike a backyard telescope used to peer through to study the night sky, the EHT does not capture a picture directly.
Instead, by combining the signals received at pairs of telescopes, the EHT captures measurements related to spatial frequencies of the image.
Telescopes that are close together enable information to be collected about the image’s large spatial structure, while pairs far apart provide information about small-scale structure.
Bouman said “though impractical, if we tiled the globe with telescopes we could collect the complete black hole image.”