Oxygen Abundances in the Milky Way Using X-ray Absorption Measurements Towards Galaxy Clusters


We present measurements of the oxygen abundance of the Milky Way's ISM by observing the K-shell X-ray photoionization edge towards galaxy clusters. This effect is most easily observed towards objects with galactic columns (n_H) of a few times 1e21 cm^-2. We measure X-ray column densities towards 11 clusters and find that at high galactic columns above approximately 1e21 cm^-2 the X-ray columns are generally 1.5--3.0 times greater than the 21 cm H II columns, indicating that molecular clouds become an important contributor to n_H at higher columns. We find the average ISM oxygen abundance to be (O/H) = (4.85 +/- 0.06) x 10^-4, or 0.99 solar when using the most recent solar photospheric values. Since X-ray observations are sensitive to the total amount of oxygen present (gas + dust), these results indicate a high gas to dust ratio. Also, the oxygen abundances along lines of sight through high galactic columns (n_H) are the same as abundances through low columns, suggesting that the composition of denser clouds is similar to that of the more diffuse ISM.Comment: submitted to Ap

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