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

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Hooton, M. J., De Mooij, E. J. W., Watson, C. A., Gibson, N. P., Galindo Guil, F. J., Clavero, R., Merritt, S. R. 2019. Storms or systematics? The changing secondary eclipse depth of WASP-12b. Monthly Notices of teh Royal Astronomical Society 486, 2, 2397-2406 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz966

WASP-12b is one of the most well-studied transiting exoplanets, as its highly inflated radius and its 1.1 d orbit around a G0-type star make it an excellent target for atmospheric categorization through observation during its secondary eclipse. We present two new secondary eclipse observations of WASP-12b, acquired an 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’ band, a window expected to be dominated by titanium oxide features if present in appreciable quantities in the upper atmosphere. We measured eclipse depths that disagree with each other by similar to 3 sigma (0.97 +/- 0.14 mmag on the INT and 0.44 +/- 0.21 mmag on the LT), a result that is mirrored in previous z’ 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, multitelescope approach to future ground-based secondary eclipse observations is required to discriminate between explanations involving storms and systematics.

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