Storms or Systematics? The changing secondary eclipse depth of WASP-12b

Matthew J. Hooton, Ernst J. W. de Mooij, Christopher A. Watson, Neale P. Gibson, Francisco J. Galindo-Guil, Rosa Clavero, Stephanie R. Merritt

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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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date05 Apr 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 05 Apr 2019


  • Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics


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