Sofia-exes observations of betelgeuse during the great dimming of 2019/2020

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In 2019 October Betelgeuse began a decline in V-band brightness that went beyond the minimum expected from its quasi-periodic ∼420 day cycle, becoming the faintest in recorded photometric history. Observations obtained in 2019 December with Very Large Telescope/SPHERE have shown that the southern half of the star has become markedly fainter than in 2019 January, indicating that a major change has occurred in, or near, the photosphere. We present Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph (EXES) high spectral-resolution observations of [Fe II] 25.99 μm and [S I] 25.25 μm emission lines from Betelgeuse obtained during the unprecedented 2020 February V-band brightness minimum to investigate potential changes in the circumstellar flow. These spectra are compared to observations obtained in 2015 and 2017 when the V magnitude was typical of brighter phases. We find only very small changes in the gas velocities reflected by either of the line profiles, no significant changes in the flux to continuum ratios, and hence no significant changes in the [Fe ii]/[S i] flux ratios. There is evidence that absorption features have appeared in the 2020 continuum. The Alfvén wave-crossing time from the upper photosphere is sufficiently long that one would not expect a change in the large-scale magnetic field to reach the circumstellar [Fe ii] and [S i] line-forming regions, 3 < R (R ) < 20. However, the light-crossing time is of order a few hours and a reduction in luminosity may reduce the dust-gas heating rate and [O i] 63.19 μm emission, which has contributions from R > 20R , where significant circumstellar oxygen-rich dust is observed.


  • Graham M. Harper
  • Curtis N. Dewitt
  • Matthew J. Richter
  • Edward F. Guinan
  • Richard Wasatonic
  • Nils Ryde
  • Edward J. Montiel
  • Amanda J. Townsend
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • University of Colorado
  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • University of California, Davis
  • Villanova University

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Astronomi, astrofysik och kosmologi
TidskriftAstrophysical Journal Letters
Utgåva nummer1
StatusPublished - 2020 apr 14
Peer review utfördJa