This lovely region is a small part of a larger cluster of galaxies known as the “Perseus Cluster.” The whole lot can be found approximately 237 million light-years away from Earth (in the direction of the constellation of Perseus). Only this particular galaxy, dubbed NGC 1275, is the strangest of them all.
NGC 1275 is an extremely active, elliptical galaxy that’s well known for being a strong emitter of x-rays that stream from the galaxy’s heart. Astronomers believe it, like most large galaxies, has a supermassive black hole lurking smack in its center. This black hole sometimes spits out large quantities of gas, with tendrils of cooler gas (each spanning about 200 light-years in width), ejecting away from the core at massive speeds, traveling for thousands of light-years away from where they originated. Neat, right?
This mechanism behind the extended existence of these large tendrils of gas are of great interest (and confusion) to astronomers. First, they are far more long than narrow, yet they are over a million times more massive than the sun. Yet, instead of noticeably dissipating, or collapsing under their own weight, as they make their way across the universe, , they remain semi-stable. Thankfully, the Hubble Space Telescope eventually came to the rescue, snapping various new(ish) images of the galaxy and its tendrils in unprecedented detail. This gives astronomers the opportunity to study magnetic forces that are responsible for holding them together for extended periods of time.
See a larger image here.