We present spatially resolved spectra observed with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope of the upper chromosphere and dust envelope of Betelgeuse (α Orionis, M2 Iab). In the fall of 2002 a set of five high-resolution near-UV spectra was obtained by scanning at intensity peak-up position and four off-limb target positions up to one arcsecond, using a small aperture (200 by 63 mas), to investigate the thermal conditions and flow dynamics in the outer atmosphere of this important nearby cool supergiant star.
Based on Mg ii h & k, Fe ii λ2716, C ii λ2327, and Al ii] λ2669 emission lines we provide the first evidence for the presence of warm chromospheric plasma at least 1 arcsecond away from the star at ∼40 R* (1 R*≃700 R⊙). The STIS spectra reveal that Betelgeuse's upper chromosphere extends far beyond the circumstellar Hα envelope of ∼5 R*, determined from previous ground-based imaging (Hebden et al. 1987).
The flux in the broad and self-absorbed resonance lines of Mg ii decreases by a factor of ∼700 compared to the flux at chromospheric disk center. We observe strong asymmetry changes in the Mg ii h and Si i resonance line profiles when scanning off-limb, signaling the outward acceleration of gas outflow in the upper chromosphere.
From the radial intensity distributions of Fe i and Fe ii emission lines we determine the radial non-LTE iron ionization balance. We compute that the local kinetic gas temperatures of the warm chromospheric gas component in the outer atmosphere exceed 2600 K, when assuming local gas densities of the cool gas component we determine from radiative transfer models that fit the 9.7 μm silicate dust emission feature. The spatially resolved STIS spectra directly demonstrate that warm chromospheric plasma co-exisists with cool gas in Betelgeuse's circumstellar dust envelope.