A global map of the atmospheric circulation and thermal structure for an ultrahot exoplanet

Tom Evans, David Sing, Kataria Tiffany, Nikolay Nikolov, Drake Deming, Nikole Lewis, Hannah Wakeford, Mark Marley, Neale Gibson, Jessica Spake, Benjamin Drummond, Joanna Barstow, Gregory Henry, Nathan Mayne

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


WASP-121b is one of the standout exoplanets available for atmospheric characterization, both in transmission and emission, due to its large radius (1.8 Jupiter radii), high temperature ( 2700K), and bright host star (H=9.4mag). Recent HST/WFC3 eclipse observations made by our group have revealed the 1.4 micron water band in emission on the dayside hemisphere of WASP-121b, implying that the atmosphere has a thermal inversion. This new development, combined with the favorable system properties, makes it clear that WASP-121b is an ideal target to empirically probe the variation of thermal inversions with longitude. To do this, we propose phase curve measurements of WASP-121b over a full orbital period in each of the Spitzer/IRAC channels. Given the measurement precision demonstrated by our previous IRAC observations of WASP-121b, we anticipate this dataset will be one of the highest signal-to-noise phase curve measurements for an exoplanet to date. It will provide a powerful complement to full-orbit phase curves that have recently been confirmed for shorter wavelengths, to be made by HST/WFC3 and JWST/NIRISS. Combined, this Spitzer+HST+JWST phase curve dataset will produce an unprecedented map of the longitudinally-resolved thermal structure, chemical composition and global circulation of an exoplanet atmosphere, and, in particular, give crucial new insight into the long-standing mystery of thermal inversions in strongly-irradiated gas giants.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSpitzer Proposal ID 13242
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2017


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