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Jeremy Shears

Another year on: now 4 years from the Great Dimming!

An A&A preprint appears on ArXiv today ( shows how different layers in the star’s photosphere appeared pourturbed during the event, returning to normal in 2022.

The Great Dimming of Betelgeuse: the photosphere as revealed by tomography during the past 15 years

Daniel Jadlovský, Thomas Granzer, Michael Weber, Kateryna Kravchenko, Jiří Krtička, K. Andrea Dupree, Andrea Chiavassa, G. Klaus Strassmeier, Katja Poppenhäger

Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star of semi-regular variability, underwent a historical minimum of brightness in February 2020, the Great Dimming. Even though the brightness has returned to the values prior to the Great Dimming by now, it continues to exhibit highly unusual behavior. Understanding the long-term atmospheric motions of Betelgeuse and its variability could be a clue to the nature of the Great Dimming and the mass-loss process in red supergiants. Our goal is to study long-term dynamics of the photosphere. We applied the tomographic method, which allows different layers in the stellar atmosphere to be probed in order to reconstruct depth-dependent velocity fields. The method is based on the construction of spectral masks by grouping spectral lines from specific optical depths. These masks are cross-correlated with the observed spectra to recover the velocity field inside each atmospheric layer. We obtained about 2700 spectra during the past 15 years, observed with the STELLA robotic telescope in Tenerife. We analysed the variability of 5 different layers of Betelgeuses photosphere. We found phase shift between the layers, as well as between the variability of velocity and photometry. The time variations of the widths of the cross-correlation function reveal propagation of two shock waves during the Great Dimming. For about 2 years after the Dimming, the time scale of variability was different between the inner and outer photospheric layers. By 2022, all the layers seemingly started to follow a similar behavior as before the Dimming, but pulsating with higher frequency corresponding with the first overtone. Combination of the extensive high-resolution spectroscopic data set with the tomographic method revealed the variable velocity fields in the photosphere of Betelgeuse, for the first time in such detail.