The carbon-to-oxygen ratio (C/O) in a planet provides critical information about its primordial origins and subsequent evolution. A primordial C/O greater than 0.8 causes a carbide-dominated interior, as opposed to the silicate-dominated composition found on Earth; the atmosphere can also differ from those in the Solar System. The solar C/O is 0.54 (ref. 3). Here we report an analysis of dayside multi-wavelength photometry of the transiting hot-Jupiter WASP-12b (ref. 6) that reveals C/O>=1 in its atmosphere. The atmosphere is abundant in CO. It is depleted in water vapour and enhanced in methane, each by more than two orders of magnitude compared to a solar-abundance chemical-equilibrium model at the expected temperatures. We also find that the extremely irradiated atmosphere (T>2,500K) of WASP-12b lacks a prominent thermal inversion (or stratosphere) and has very efficient day-night energy circulation. The absence of a strong thermal inversion is in stark contrast to theoretical predictions for the most highly irradiated hot-Jupiter atmospheres.
ASJC Scopus subject areas