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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: New Mass and Distance Estimates for Betelgeuse through Combined Evolutionary, Asteroseismic, and Hydrodynamic Simulations with MESA

Joyce, Meridith and Leung, Shing-Chi and Molnár, László and Ireland, Michael and Kobayashi, Chiaki and Nomoto, Ken’ichi (2020) Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: New Mass and Distance Estimates for Betelgeuse through Combined Evolutionary, Asteroseismic, and Hydrodynamic Simulations with MESA. Astrophysical Journal, 902 (1). Art. No. 63. ISSN 1538-4357.

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We conduct a rigorous examination of the nearby red supergiant Betelgeuse by drawing on the synthesis of new observational data and three different modeling techniques. Our observational results include the release of new, processed photometric measurements collected with the space-based Solar Mass Ejection Imager instrument prior to Betelgeuse's recent, unprecedented dimming event. We detect the first radial overtone in the photometric data and report a period of 185 ± 13.5 days. Our theoretical predictions include self-consistent results from multi-timescale evolutionary, oscillatory, and hydrodynamic simulations conducted with the Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics software suite. Significant outcomes of our modeling efforts include a precise prediction for the star's radius: 764_(-62)^(+116),R_⊙. In concert with additional constraints, this allows us to derive a new, independent distance estimate of 168_(-15)^(+27) pc and a parallax of π = 5.95_(-0.85)^(+0.58) mas, in good agreement with Hipparcos but less so with recent radio measurements. Seismic results from both perturbed hydrostatic and evolving hydrodynamic simulations constrain the period and driving mechanisms of Betelgeuse's dominant periodicities in new ways. Our analyses converge to the conclusion that Betelgeuse's ≈400 day period is the result of pulsation in the fundamental mode, driven by the κ-mechanism. Grid-based hydrodynamic modeling reveals that the behavior of the oscillating envelope is mass-dependent, and likewise suggests that the nonlinear pulsation excitation time could serve as a mass constraint. Our results place α Orionis definitively in the early core helium-burning phase of the red supergiant branch. We report a present-day mass of 16.5–19 M_⊙—slightly lower than typical literature values.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Joyce, Meridith0000-0002-8717-127X
Leung, Shing-Chi0000-0002-4972-3803
Molnár, László0000-0002-8159-1599
Ireland, Michael0000-0002-6194-043X
Kobayashi, Chiaki0000-0002-4343-0487
Nomoto, Ken’ichi0000-0001-9553-0685
Alternate Title:Standing on the shoulders of giants: New mass and distance estimates for α Orionis through a combination of evolutionary, asteroseismic, and hydrodynamical simulations with MESA
Additional Information:© 2020. The American Astronomical Society. Received 2020 June 16; revised 2020 September 14; accepted 2020 September 14; published 2020 October 13. M.J. was supported the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University and funding from Australian Research Council grant No. DP150100250. M.J. was likewise supported by Ken'ichi Nomoto and invitation to the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the Institute for the Mathematics and Physics of the Universe (IPMU) at the University of Tokyo in 2020 January. Collaboration with Chiaki Kobayashi was made possible in part through the Stromlo Distinguished Visitors Program. M.J. wishes to thank Peter Wood and Matteo Cantiello for helpful discussion regarding construction and interpretation of hydrodynamic simulations. M.J. further acknowledges Richard Townsend for management of the GYRE forums and the rest of the MESA developers for their support and expert guidance. This work was also supported by World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI), and JSPS KAKENHI grant Nos. JP17K05382 and JP20K04024. S.C.L. thanks the MESA development community for making the code open-source. S.C.L. acknowledges support by funding HST-AR-15021.001-A and 80NSSC18K101. L.M. was supported by the Premium Postdoctoral Research Program of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The research leading to these results received funding from the LP2014-17 and LP2018-7/2019 Lendület grants of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the KH_18 130405 grant of the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH). L.M. wishes to thank Bernard Jackson for discussions about the SMEI photometry. C.K. acknowledges funding from the UK Science and Technology Facility Council (STFC) through grant ST/M000958/1 & ST/R000905/1, and the Stromlo Distinguished Visitorship at the ANU. We acknowledge with thanks the variable star observations from the AAVSO International Database contributed by observers worldwide and used in this research. This research has made use of the SIMBAD database, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France, and NASA's Astrophysics Data System Bibliographic Services. Facilities: AAVSO (, SMEI (Hick et al. 2007). Software: MESA (Paxton et al. 2018), GYRE (Townsend & Teitler 2013), Period04 (Lenz & Breger 2005), Python: numpy, matplotlib, Bokeh (Oliphant 2006; Hunter 2007); gnuplot.
Group:TAPIR, Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Australian Research CouncilDP150100250
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)JP17K05382
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)JP20K04024
NASA Hubble FellowshipHST-AR-15021.001-A
Science and Technology Facility Council (STFC)ST/M000958/1
Hungarian Academy of SciencesLP2014-17
Hungarian Academy of SciencesLP2018-7/2019
National Research, Development and Innovation Office (Hungary)KH_18 130405
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)ST/M000958/1
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)ST/R000905/1
Australian National UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Red giant stars ; Stellar oscillations ; Stellar evolutionary models ; Hydrodynamical simulations
Issue or Number:1
Classification Code:Unified Astronomy Thesaurus concepts: Red giant stars (1372); Stellar oscillations (1617); Stellar evolutionary models (2046); Hydrodynamical simulations (767)
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201013-104022746
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Meridith Joyce et al 2020 ApJ 902 63
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106015
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:13 Oct 2020 18:12
Last Modified:13 Oct 2020 18:12

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