tendrils of gas and dust in elliptical galaxy NGC 4696 have been imaged
in great detail—an image from the Hubble Space Telescope. These
filaments appear to connect to the central region 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,
pushes out cooler filaments of gas and dust, and shuts down star
formation. Balanced by magnetic fields, these filaments then appear to
spiral back in toward and eventually circle the central black hole.
NGC 4696 is the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster of Galaxies,
located about 150 million light years from Earth. The featured image
shows a region about 45,000 light years across.