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European Southern Observatory

By Kyoko Matsushita, Yuhri Ishimaru and Alvio Renzini


We present estimates for the iron content of the stellar and diffused components of elliptical galaxies, as derived respectively from integrated optical spectra and from ASCA X-ray observations. A macroscopic discrepancy emerges between the expected iron abundances in the hot interstellar medium (ISM) and what is indicated by the X-ray observations, especially when allowance is made for the current iron enrichment by Type Ia supernovae. This strong discrepancy, that in some extreme instances may be as large as a factor of ∼ 20, calls into question our current understanding of supernova enrichment and chemical evolution of galaxies. We discuss several astrophysical implications of the inferred low iron abundances in the ISM, including the chemical evolution of galaxies and cluster of galaxies, the evolution of gas flows in ellipticals, and the heating of the intracluster medium. Some of the consequences appear hard to accept, and in the attempt to avoid some of these difficulties we explore ways of hiding or diluting iron in the ISM of ellipticals. None of these possibilities appears astrophysically plausible, and we alternatively rise the question of the reliability o

Year: 1996
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