Type Ia supernovae (Ia SNe) provide a rich source of iron for hot gas in galactic stellar spheroids. However, the expected supersolar iron abundance of the hot gas is not observed. Instead, X-ray observations often show decreasing iron abundance towards galactic central regions, where the Ia SN enrichment is expected to be the highest. We examine the cause of this missing-iron problem by studying the enrichment process and its effect on X-ray abundance measurements of the hot gas. The evolution of Ia SN iron ejecta is simulated in the context of galaxy-wide hot gas outflows, in both supersonic and subsonic cases, as may be expected for hot gas in galactic bulges or elliptical galaxies of intermediate masses. SN reverse-shock-heated iron ejecta is typically found to have a very high temperature and low density, hence producing little X-ray emission. Such hot ejecta, driven by its large buoyancy, can quickly reach a substantially higher outward velocity than the ambient medium, which is dominated by mass-loss from evolved stars. The ejecta is gradually and dynamically mixed with the medium at large galactic radii. The ejecta is also slowly diluted and cooled by in situ mass injection from evolved stars. These processes together naturally result in the observed positive gradient in the average radial iron abundance distribution of the hot gas, even if mass weighted. This trend is in addition to the X-ray measurement bias that tends to underestimate the iron abundance for the hot gas with a temperature distribution.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society