What’s happening at the center of this awesome elliptical galaxy? Long filaments of gas and dust have been imaged in great detail as shown by this recently released image from the Hubble Space Telescope. They appear to connect to the middle of the galaxy, a region thought occupied by a supermassive black hole.
Speculation holds that this black hole pumps out energy that heats surrounding gas all while pushing out cooler filaments of gas and dust. Balanced by magnetic fields, these filaments then appear to spiral back in toward and eventually circle the center.
NGC 4696 is the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster of Galaxies, located about 150 million light years from Earth. This image shows a region about 45,000 light years across.