It has become evident in recent years that elliptical galaxies harbor many interesting features. Currently in ∼ 40% of all ellipticals dust has been detected (e.g.) Sadler and Gerhard 1985). Several galaxies are found to harbor decoupled cores. Although the best evidence for these entities is provided by kinematical data (i.e. counter-rotating cores), Bender (1988) found in four cases an interesting correspondence between kinematical decoupling and the ellipticity profile within the region where kinematical decoupling takes place.
Since these features (including the gas and/or dust) are often located in or near the nuclei of these galaxies, many of them may still be undetected due to the atmospheric smearing. We therefore undertook a program of high resolution Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging of a complete sample of 12 elliptical galaxies in the Virgo cluster. After standard reduction the images were deconvolved by Fourier filtering.
The majority of our galaxies show peculiar near-nuclear morphology (Jaffe et al. 19936): NGC 4261 (3C 270), one of the two active galaxies in our sample, was found to harbor a small, smooth, dusty disk around a point-like nucleus (JafFe et al. 1993a). We found the disk, which we interpret as the outer accretion disk, to be perpendicular to the jet axis. NGC 4476 shows a large circumnuclear ring or disk of dust, whereas the dust is filamentary in NGC 4550 and NGC 4374.