Temporal evolution of the size and temperature of Betelgeuse's extended atmosphere
Journal article, 2015

Spatially resolved multi-wavelength centimeter continuum observations of cool evolved stars can not only constrain the morphology of the radio emitting regions, but can also directly probe the mean gas temperature at various depths of the star's extended atmosphere. Here, we use the Very Large Array (VLA) in the A configuration with the Pie Town (PT) Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) antenna to spatially resolve the extended atmosphere of Betelgeuse over multiple epochs at 0.7, 1.3, 2.0, 3.5, and 6.1 cm. The extended atmosphere deviates from circular symmetry at all wavelengths while at some epochs we find possible evidence for small pockets of gas significantly cooler than the mean global temperature. We find no evidence for the recently reported e-MERLIN radio hotspots in any of our multi-epoch VLA/PT data, despite having sufficient spatial resolution and sensitivity at short wavelengths, and conclude that these radio hotspots are most likely interferometric artefacts. The mean gas temperature of the extended atmosphere has a typical value of 3000 K at 2 R ∗ and decreases to 1800 K at 6 R ∗ , in broad agreement with the findings of the single epoch study from Lim et al. (1998, Nature, 392, 575). The overall temperature profile of the extended atmosphere between 2 R ∗ ≲ r ≲ 6 R ∗ can be described by a power law of the form T gas (r) ∝ r-0.6, with temporal variability of a few 100 K evident at some epochs. Finally, we present over 12 yr of V band photometry, part of which overlaps our multi-epoch radio data. We find a correlation between the fractional flux density variability at V band with most radio wavelengths. This correlation is likely due to shock waves induced by stellar pulsations, which heat the inner atmosphere and ionize the more extended atmosphere through radiative means. Stellar pulsations may play an important role in exciting Betelgeuse's extended atmosphere.

Stars: atmospheres

Stars: mass-loss

Stars: individual: Betelgeuse


Stars: late-type

Stars: massive


Eamon O Gorman

Chalmers, Earth and Space Sciences, Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics

G. M. Harper

University of Colorado at Boulder

A. Brown

University of Colorado at Boulder

E. F. Guinan

Villanova University

A. M. S. Richards

University of Manchester

Wouter Vlemmings

Chalmers, Earth and Space Sciences, Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics

R. Wasatonic

Villanova University

Astronomy and Astrophysics

0004-6361 (ISSN) 1432-0746 (eISSN)

Vol. 580 A101

Magnetic fields and the outflows during the formation and evolution of stars (OUTFLOWMAGN)

European Commission (EC) (EC/FP7/614264), 2014-05-01 -- 2019-04-30.

Subject Categories

Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology


Basic sciences



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