How to take a picture of a black hole | Katie Bouman


At the heart of the Milky Way, there’s a supermassive black hole that feeds off a spinning disk of hot gas, sucking up anything that ventures too close — even light. We can’t see it, but its event horizon casts a shadow, and an image of that shadow could help answer some important questions about the universe. Scientists used to think that making such an image would require a telescope the size of Earth — until Katie Bouman and a team of astronomers came up with a clever alternative. Learn more about how we can see in the ultimate dark.

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Comment (516)

  1. So they are taking a billion images of snow and choosing the few that randomly look like what they want to see. What idiot is paying for this non-science waste of time? This is what happens when you educate kids to answer questions like “how does math make you feel?” instead questions of “2.983 x 1523.7 = what?”

  2. can you imagine this as your career and your research?? How tedious but how exciting! Producing a picture of a black hole would be incredible, it would change astronomy!

  3. Finally a female speaker on TED actually talking about science rather than feminism! Hopefully this marks a new beginning without all the SJW crap lately… the like to dislike bar looks a lot healthier too. Great talk.

  4. sciens ppl are too stupid why use satelet to take photo -.- ! just take good cam maybe the new cannon cam and put big lence on it maybe 10 scopes at a row then u can zoom on anything

  5. I don’t get it. Why does the algorithm putting together a similar image out of selfies mean the resulting black hole image is more likely to be accurate? Why is an elephant!?

  6. Well done!! Made me emotional to see a young woman as excited as I am about this at my age. I had the grades for MIT, but very poor family. Glad things are changing here, too.

  7. So no evidence of a black hole, is evidence of a black hole? Sounds very similar to a God argument. I’d need to know if her research is including current higgs, dark matter, and anti-matter

  8. Wait wait wait 6:10 If you take more pictures when the earth rotates you dont fill the missing pixels of the black hole image… what does earth rotation change? its just the angle that changes (less air -> better picture) but it doesnt show other pixels of an image…

    Mabye the discription is made that also non-professionals understand, but i would like to know the real idea..

    @ 18:00 – what if there are so many possible images that you see something that isnt there.. for example a planet that looks like earth (you dont see a real planet but the images taken together may create something that looks like this.
    All in all – you cant say if this is an actual image of a black hole then, because it could be everything

  9. Stage Director: “Quick! We need some stage decorations!! New GUY! Got any ideas!?”
    New Guy: “uhh, we can stack plastic cups and plates”.
    Stage Director: Genius!

  10. Why not use a simple linear interpolation algorithm. colour each pixel by the closest data point.
    How big do the individual telescopes have to be, each telescope only captures one pixel at a time. What you need is a cloud of millions of smartphone size telescopes orbiting the earth in a high orbit. Much more data and bigger “virtual telescope”

  11. How can scientists believe in something with no evidence? It’s the same as religious people believing in god without ever seeing him. Scientists take a piss on religious believers for doing the exact same thing . I’m not religious just an observation of their hypocritical way of thinking.

  12. She was speaking way too fast to cover as much as she can but she should understand that people who are hearing it for first time will not be able to keep up with that pace. So good research not a very good speech

  13. You see ted what youve been doing wrong? Portraying women as bitches and whiners rather than things able to accomplish greatness. There we go feminism die. There we go feminism die like fascism and all other forms of disgusting fanaticism of the 20th century. Good boy ted. Youre learning how to portray women now. Stfu and stick to science.

  14. I’ve been waiting for this for years! Black holes are incredibly important; nature’s finest example of quantum gravity. I sincerely hope that our observations of these stellar remnants will open the door to new physics, and ultimately a deeper understanding of this universe. Thank you for sharing your work with the public, they ought to realize how exciting this is.

  15. She did such a fantastic job of explaining that! Thank you so much! I knew we were taking pictures with the event horizon but I didn’t realize how much went into the process afterward. Amazing info!

  16. So many thirsty little bitches in this comment section. Are you physically incapable of looking past a person’s attractiveness and listen to what they are saying?

  17. Thank you for being a breath of fresh air from the normal politics and mind numbing videos that normally pop up on my feed. Continue being confident and excited in what you do.

  18. A woman speaker with a positive like/dislike ratio.. Funny that eh..
    This channel doesn’t have a hugely bigoted audience. It simply respects facts and science, instead of wild unscientific conjecture that is based solely on “feelings”. Crunch the numbers, spot the bullshit. Intelligent men and women are simply tired of being told that the white male is inherently evil and the rest of humanity is suffering because of it.

  19. Her knees were moving in relation to her vocals, performing a spectrum analysis, If you put two dots on her knees and move the dots through a time graph you’d be able to get a nice waveform image and reproduce the vocals.

  20. Love her passion for this. And this is pretty cool. But I feel I’m not understanding the last part about puzzle pieces. If any variety of images keeps creating the desire outcome, does it not seem that the algorithm is programmed to create that outcome instead of letting the pieces/evidence create the output itself? Maybe my tired mind is missing something

  21. لو كانت في مصر كان زمانها في كلية تجارة علشان معرفتش في امتحان الثانوية طه حسين كان بيخاف من العفاريت ليه

  22. one thing is you have to believe their computer data is coming from where they say it’s coming from. People don’t think about it, but it’s based on belief that these things are reality

  23. It is nice to see someone speak like this.. But as a matter of fact the raidius of lens of a telescope required does not depend on the level of magnication but on the degree of brightness of the object in concern. If we are to consider the degree of magnification of the lens then the power of lens will be the required factor. If this show is supposed to be humourous then I must say you are doing a fine job.

  24. Half of those comments comment her looks. Well done, comment section! Can we talk more about the important subject rather than the person who presents it? I was kinda confused toward the end. From what I get, we are more likely to see the same picture from any subject, or is this ring thing just an analogy? Regarding taking an actual picture, quite frankly, I’d say we have to let technology develop over some time, because sometimes it’s better to wait a bit and be able to do something with a moderate amount of struggle rather than struggle a lot of immediate, and approximate results. They are forcing this thing way too much, because what they get is just the basic idea of something with a ton of work.

  25. She’s so passionate about her profession. I used to care about looks only in my twenties. Now i am extremely attracted to women who are passionate about their profession. Off course my male brain still needs physical beauty but i do not look for the model type anymore. I would be very happy to be married to a woman like her.

  26. Great and informative speech! I was writing an informative speech about black holes for my Speech and Debate class, and this gives me more inspiration to write it.

  27. A woman speaking about science rather than social issues, this is great! Everyone please thumbs up the video so TED knows what talks they should be doing more of!

  28. i feel like these people who are so surprised to see a woman have not been in the science field long. Half the people in my postgrad lab doing their phd’s are female … Yes that’s anecdotal, but maybe get off youtube once in a while, is all im saying.

  29. so this is just a star recognition algorithm on telescope……..i was thinking that you would rather reconstruct black hole image by using different telescope as source


    Hope you get the irony. Great talk btw.

  31. Unfortunately, sounds like bulshit. You can compose any image from a pixels of any other image if both images have resambling histogram. And in case of non colored image the chances to compose any image raising exponantly aspecialy when most of the image is black.

  32. It’s cool to think that if someone had one of these super “orange spotting” telescopes 72 light years away and pointed it at earth, they’d be able to see Hiroshima being rocked by Little Boy. It even more powerful they see a bunch of people from the 40s lol…If that’s how light works at all I’m not sure.

  33. If you take a picture of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, when there are many tourists and a flight of pigeons, it is a unique image that nobody will ever be able to redo. One can make a software that displays all possible images on a computer and letting it run a few billion years at very high speed, it will eventually display the image of St. Mark’s Square with certainty……

  34. Why not create a proportional model here on earth with a simulation or experiment of a smaller set of telescopes/cameras taking a pick of something. Since we know exactly what the original object looks like, its easy to make an algorithm to direct this image the telescopes captured into recombining into the correct picture.

  35. Great talk. Love the enthusiasm! I just wonder, and this is an honest question, how much are these reconstructed images valuable in the eyes of the science since it is a simulated image after all and not a photo?

  36. Just imagine how much Einstein would light up if he saw this today!
    Extremely far stretched jokes aside, if you find science and other topics interesting, how about you check out our first video about what IQ really means that we just released! Take a look if it sounds interesting!

  37. Just because she is cute doesn’t mean… gimme a break. What a joke. “although I won’t be able to show you a black hole today.” Come on people. Nothing but NASA renditions and lies.

  38. What could be the biggest benefit we get from knowing how a blackhole looks like? Shouldn’t we be focusing more on how we closely look up on how people should live our lives?

  39. I interviewed a woman for an operations job that required 8 years of experience. she only had 3 and told me probably 10 times in the interview that “I have an MBA” from a good school. she did not get the job because. lesson: don’t hang your hat on your fancy degree people. you have to be able to do the actual job and meet the basic requirements. when she said “PhD from MIT” it reminded me of that. side note, I love science and loved this video. it just reminded me of that personal story, that’s all

  40. Get this feminist bullsh*t off of TED! Ow, wait… Finally an actual science video by a woman again, instead of pushing narratives. And it’s a good one!

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