WATCH | Smile for the telescope, black holes of our galaxy and elsewhere!
Google search "black hole" and you'll find a bunch of illustrations of black holes but no actual images. This is because, to this point, no real picture of a black hole has ever been taken.
To remedy that, a coalition of hundreds of radio astronomers across the world have put together an "Earth-sized" telescope to grab the very first image a black hole -- that process is taking place right
Chile's ALMA observatory is part of the Event Horizon Telescope composite.
So why do scientists need such a large composite of telescopes to see a black hole? The largest major black hole to Earth is Sagittarius A*, which is larger than our sun but also 26,000 light-years away. This distance means snapping a picture of it would be much like trying to do the same with a grapefruit on the surface of the moon.
The so-called "Event Horizon Telescope," made up of observatory locations from Spain, Hawaii, the South Pole and elsewhere, touts a telescope resolution higher than 2,000 times the Hubble, making it right for the job.
An illustration of how the EHT works. (ESO/O. FURTAK)
According to NASA, an actual black hole, being just "a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out," can't really be seen, per say. What can be seen when it comes to a large black hole is the light and gas that's disappearing around it -- which might create some area of darkness in the middle of space.
“The first images probably won’t look quite like the beautiful simulations,” Heino Falcke, science council chair of the Event Horizon Telescope, told The Atlantic. “If we are lucky, we may see something that looks like an ugly peanut."
The EHT black hole imaging began April 5 and will go on until the 14th. In an interview with IFLScience, project director Shep Doeleman said he expects the images captured by the telescope composite to be processed and analyzed through the fall.
"Results from these observations should be coming out early in 2018," he went on.
And though the first real images shot of a black hole won't be the kind of thing most will want to set as their PC wallpaper, pure space enthusiasts will likely beg to differ.