WASP-12b is one of the most well-studied transiting exoplanets, as its highly-inflated radius and its 1.1 day orbit around a G0-type star make it an excellent target for atmospheric categorisation through observation during its secondary eclipse. We present two new secondary eclipse observations of WASP-12b, acquired a year apart with the Wide Field Camera on the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) and the IO:O instrument on the Liverpool Telescope (LT). These observations were conducted in the $i^\prime$-band, a window expected to be dominated by TiO features if present in appreciable quantities in the upper atmosphere. We measured eclipse depths that disagree with each other by $\sim$3$\sigma$ (0.97 $\pm$ 0.14 mmag on the INT and 0.44 $\pm$ 0.21 mmag on the LT), a result that is mirrored in previous $z^\prime$-band secondary eclipse measurements for WASP-12b. We explore explanations for these disagreements, including systematic errors and variable thermal emission in the dayside atmosphere of WASP-12b caused by temperature changes of a few hundred Kelvin: a possibility we cannot rule out from our analysis. Full-phase curves observed with TESS and CHEOPS have the potential to detect similar atmospheric variability for WASP-12b and other optimal targets, and a strategic, multi-telescope approach to future ground-based secondary eclipse observations is required to discriminate between explanations involving storms and systematics.
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics