We present the results of an XMM–Newton mosaic covering the central ∼200 kpc of the nearby Virgo cluster. We focus on a strong surface brightness discontinuity in the outskirts of the brightest cluster galaxy (BCG), M87. Using both XMM–Newton and Suzaku, we derive accurate temperature and metallicity profiles across this feature and show that it is a cold front probably due to sloshing of the Virgo intracluster medium (ICM). It is also associated with a discontinuity in the chemical composition. The gas in the inner, bright region of the front is ∼40 per cent more abundant in Fe than the gas outside the front, suggesting the important role of sloshing in transporting metals through the ICM. For the first time, we provide a quantitative estimate of the mass of Fe transported by a cold front. This amounts to ∼6 per cent of the total Fe mass within the radial range affected by sloshing, significantly more than the amount of metals transported by the active galactic nucleus in the same cluster core. The very low Fe abundance of only ∼0.2 solar immediately outside the cold front at a radius of 90 kpc suggests we are witnessing first-hand the transport of higher metallicity gas into a pristine region, whose abundance is typical of the cluster outskirts. The Mg/Fe and O/Fe abundance ratios remain approximately constant over the entire radial range between the centre of M87 and the faint side of the cold front, which requires the presence of a centrally peaked distribution not only for Fe but also for core-collapse type supernova products. This peak may stem from the star formation triggered as the BCG assembled during the protocluster phase.
Keywords: ISM: abundances; cooling flows; galaxies: individual: M87; X-rays: galaxies: clusters
Journal Article. 7783 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics
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