Investigating the potential dilution of the metal content of hot gas in early-type galaxies by accreted cold gas

Yuanyuan Su, Jimmy A. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The measured emission-weighted metal abundance of the hot gas in early-type galaxies has been known to be lower than theoretical expectations for 20 years. In addition, both X-ray luminosity and metal abundance vary significantly among galaxies of similar optical luminosities. This suggests some missing factors in the galaxy evolution process, especially the metal enrichment process. With Chandra and XMM-Newton, we studied 32 early-type galaxies (kT ≲ 1 keV) covering a span of two orders of L X, gas/LK to investigate these missing factors. Contrary to previous studies that X-ray faint galaxies show extremely low Fe abundance (0.1 Z), nearly all galaxies in our sample show an Fe abundance at least 0.3 Z, although the measured Fe abundance difference between X-ray faint and X-ray bright galaxies remains remarkable. We investigated whether this dichotomy of hot gas Fe abundances can be related to the dilution of hot gas by mixing with cold gas. With a subset of 24 galaxies in this sample, we find that there is virtually no correlation between hot gas Fe abundances and their atomic gas content, which disproves the scenario that the low metal abundance of X-ray faint galaxies might be a result of the dilution of the remaining hot gas by pristine atomic gas. In contrast, we demonstrate a negative correlation between the measured hot gas Fe abundance and the ratio of molecular gas mass to hot gas mass, although it is unclear what is responsible for this apparent anti-correlation. We discuss several possibilities including that externally originated molecular gas might be able to dilute the hot gas metal content. Alternatively, the measured hot gas Fe abundance may be underestimated due to more complex temperature and abundance structures and even a two-temperature model might be insufficient to reflect the true value of the emission weighted mean Fe abundance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number61
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2013


  • ISM: abundances
  • ISM: atoms
  • ISM: molecules
  • X-rays: ISM
  • X-rays: galaxies
  • galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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