ALMA Reveals Hidden Morphologies in the Molecular Envelope of VY Canis Majoris

A. P. Singh, A. M.S. Richards, R. M. Humphreys, L. Decin, L. M. Ziurys

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1 Scopus citations


The J = 2 → 1 transition of CO near 230 GHz and the J = 3 → 2 line of HCN at 265 GHz have been imaged in the envelope of the red hypergiant star, VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa), using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) with angular resolutions 0.″2-1.″5; single-dish data were added to provide sensitivity up to 30″. These images reveal a far more complex envelope, with previously unseen outflows extending 4″-9″ from the star. These new structures include an arc-like outflow with an angular separation of ∼9″ northeast from the stellar position (“NE Arc”), twin fingerlike features approximately 4″ to the north/northeast (“NE Extension”), and a roughly spherical region observed ∼7″ E of the star (“E Bubble”). The NE Arc appears to be decelerating from base (V LSR ∼ 7 km s−1) to tip (V LSR ∼ 18 km s−1), while the NE Extension is blueshifted with V LSR ∼ −7 km s−1. Among the new features, HCN is only detected in the NE Arc. In addition, known structures Arc 1, Arc 2, and NW Arc, as well as other features closer to the star, are closely replicated in CO, suggesting that the gas and dust are well mixed. The CO spectra are consistent with the kinematic picture of VY CMa derived from HST data. Arc 2, however, has added complexity. Preliminary results from CO suggest 12C/13C ∼ 22-38 across the envelope. The additional presence of at least three major episodic mass ejection events significantly broadens the current perspective of the envelope structure and mass-loss history of VY CMa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL1
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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