Science

Meet one of the first scientists to see the historic black hole image

Its hard to say which scientist was the first to set eyes on the glowing ring that makes up the worlds first image of a black hole. But astrophysicist Kazunori Akiyama was certainly one of the earliest.

The image, released to the public on April 10, revealed the dark shadow of the supermassive black hole encircled by swirling gas at the center of the galaxy M87 (SN Online: 4/10/19). This was no quick and easy snapshot. Collecting the data involved eight observatories and more than 200 researchers around the world. Making an image out of that data demanded the skills of more than 50 imaging experts (SN Online: 4/10/19). Akiyama, of MIT Haystack Observatory in Westford, Mass., was a leader of that effort to translate the data into the final, stunning shot.

But before Akiyama and the others could create the image, they had to wait months for others on the Event Horizon Telescope team to analyze and crunch down the five petabytes of raw data — which filled more than half a tons worth of hard drives — collected in April 2017. The imaging specialists received the final data in June 2018. “I could not sleep the night before because I was so stressed,” Akiyama says.

He ran his analysis immediately after receiving the data, and within minutes, there it was: the first rendering of the black holes shadow. “I was really happy, really excited,” he says.

But then Akiyama started to worry. What if he was the only person to see the black holes image? What if the others came up with something different? “After getting the first image, I could not sleep again.”

There was a long slog before Akiyama could be certain of what he saw. To make sure the final image was accurate, and that the results couldnt be biased by groupthink, the researchers broke into four teams that worked independently and then compared their results. “We told themRead More – Source

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