If you were to ask a handful of professional astronomers what they thought one of the most intriguing things about outer space were, many would probably mention black holes. But why all the wonder? Perhaps it's because we've never actually seen what a black hole looks like.
Indeed, every image of a black hole you've ever seen to date is nothing more than an article's impression. In fact, humankind has never photographed a raw image of a black hole before because they reside in the perfect camouflage: a dense, dark object in the middle of the blackness of outer space.
Some of the ways we detect black holes are when light passes near one and the immense gravitational forces 'bend' said light or when the black hole devours something massive and then 'burps' following on the large meal. On the other hand, these detections are nothing more than depictions of the light surrounding the black hole, and not the object of interest itself.
Given that we've never actually photographed a black hole before, you can bet that space scientists are just itching to get their hands on a photograph of one. Using a network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope, they hope to gather enough interferometry data from several globally-placed radio telescopes to compose a full picture.
While scientists have collected much of the data already, we now need to process countless petabytes of data. Unfortunately, the files that make up this data are much too large for transmission, so the physical storage drives get transported from one place to another for analysis, and that takes time.
The first processed image of an actual black hole could be ready for public viewing by 2018, but scientists still aren't sure what we might see after processing all the data. For all we know, we might not have all the data we need yet.
Without a reasonable doubt, it should be fascinating to see what scientists come up with when everything's said and done.