Penangite among first scientists behind historic black hole image (VIDEO)

A Facebook screenshot of Kevin Koay Jun Yi giving a lecture on the EHT project in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) on January 29.
A Facebook screenshot of Kevin Koay Jun Yi giving a lecture on the EHT project in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) on January 29.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 ― Kevin Koay Jun Yi from Penang has the distinction of being among the first team of international scientists to have captured the first image of a black hole ― an astronomical achievement that is making waves worldwide since its release yesterday.

The 37-year-old scientist got involved in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project that made the historic record of the black hole after joining the Taiwan-based Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) in 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow, The Star reported yesterday.

“I was part of the observing team at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, on April 2017 when these observations were carried out.

“I am also a part of the data processing and imaging teams, so was heavily involved in processing/ validating/checking the data and turning them into the images,” he told The Star in an email interview.

He said the team involved 200 international members, adding that he was among the first group of 20 people to see the black hole images.

Koay is still a fellow at ASIAA and at present, is actively involved in the observation at a newly constructed Greenland telescope in theArctic, which is part of the EHT assembly of land telescopes spread across the world and synchronised with atomic clocks.

“I was invited to join the Greenland telescope and EHT group because of my background and previous experience in radio astronomy. Of course, this project was too exciting for me to turn down!” he was quoted saying in the interview.

The Malaysian scientist who was a postdoctoral researcher at the Dark Cosmology Centre of the Niels Bohr Institute in the University of Copenhagen between 2013 and 2016 believes capturing the black hole image has opened up a new door in astrophysics.

“There’s much more to learn and much to improve, like the inclusion of new telescopes such as the Greenland telescope to achieve better image quality,” he told The Star.

Koay holds a doctorate from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University.

He returned to his hometown to give a lecture on the EHT project in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) on January 29.

His lecture on the project is still available for viewing on the Physics Coffee Talk, a Facebook page set up by a group of USM students to discuss physics.

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