Chandra X-ray measurement of gas-phase heavy element abundances in the central parsec of the galaxy


Elemental abundances are key to our understanding of star formation and evolution in the Galactic Centre. Previous work on this topic has been based on infrared (IR) observations, but X-ray observations have the potential of constraining the abundance of heavy elements, mainly through their K-shell emission lines. Using 5.7 Ms Chandra observations, we provide the first abundance measurement of Si, S, Ar, Ca, and Fe, in four prominent diffuse X-ray features located in the central parsec of the Galaxy, which are the manifestation of shock-heated hot gas. A two-temperature non-equilibrium ionization spectral model is employed to derive the abundances of these five elements. In this procedure, a degeneracy is introduced due to uncertainties in the composition of light elements, in particular, H, C, and N. Assuming that the hot gas is H-depleted but C- and N-enriched, as would be expected for a standard scenario in which the hot gas is dominated by Wolf–Rayet star winds, the spectral fit finds a generally subsolar abundance for the heavy elements. If, instead, the light elements had a solar-like abundance, the heavy elements have a fitted abundance of ∼1–2 solar. The α/Fe abundance ratio, on the other hand, is mostly supersolar and insensitive to the exact composition of the light elements. These results are robust against potential biases due to either a moderate spectral signal-to-noise ratio or the presence of non-thermal components. Implications of the measured abundances for the Galactic Centre environment are addressed.

In The Astroiphysical Journal
Zhuo Chen
Zhuo Chen
PHAST postdoc fellow