Deneb & Rigel
Time, spatial, and spectral resolution of the Hα line-formation region of Deneb and Rigel with the VEGA/CHARA interferometer
by Chesneau et al. 2010, A&A, 521, A5
BA-type supergiants are amongst the most optically-bright stars. They are observable in extragalactic environments, hence potential accurate distance indicators.
An extensive record of emission activity in the Hα line of the BA supergiants β Orionis (Rigel, B8Ia) and α Cygni (Deneb, A2Ia) is indicative of localized time-dependent mass ejections. However, little is known about the spatial distribution of these apparent structures. Here, we employ optical interferometry to study the Hα line-formation region in these stellar environments.
High spatial- (~0.001'') and spectral- (R = 30 000) resolution observations of Hα were obtained with the visible recombiner VEGA installed on the CHARA interferometer, using the S1S2 array-baseline (34 m). Six independent observations were done on Deneb during the years 2008 and 2009, and two of Rigel in 2009. We analyze this dataset with the 1D non-LTE radiative-transfer code cmfgen, and assess the impact of the wind on the visible and near-IR interferometric signatures, using both Balmer-line and continuum photons.
We observe a visibility decrease in Hα for both Rigel and Deneb, suggesting that the line-formation region is extended (~1.5–1.75 ). We observe a significant visibility decrease for Deneb in the Siii 6371 Å line. We witness time variations in the differential phase for Deneb, implying an inhomogeneous and unsteady circumstellar environment, while no such variability is seen in differential visibilities. Radiative-transfer modeling of Deneb, with allowance for stellar-wind mass loss, accounts fairly well for the observed decrease in the Hα visibility. Based on the observed differential visibilities, we estimate that the mass-loss rate of Deneb has changed by less than 5%.