The universe is a cold and violent place where the immutable laws of physics have no heart or humor. To further this point, check out a new Hubble Space Telescope photo showing the tenacious, enveloping tentacles of interstellar gas and dust caused by a supermassive black hole at the center of an innocent elliptical galaxy.
In this unsettling cosmic image, tendrils of interstellar gas swirl around the neck of NGC 4696, a standard galaxy 150 million light-years away, residing within the Centaurus galactic cluster. Despite the spectacular shape, this poor galaxy is living on borrowed time, as the black hole at its core is preventing any fertile, star-spawning gas from accumulating. The finger-like filaments, comprised of dust and ionized hydrogen, spiral out like a blooming death flower from the central body and are whisked into the inky depths of outer space. Astronomers at the University of Cambridge have determined that the extreme energy produced by the violent black hole is blasting the neighboring gas, directing massive, 200-light-year-wide waves of super-heated material outward and dragging this curling webbed material and the galaxy’s magnetic field along for the ride.
Have a look and tell us if you feel slightly sorry for this heavenly homicide victim.