Phase Curves of WASP-33b and HD 149026b and a New Correlation between Phase Curve Offset and Irradiation Temperature

Michael Zhang, Heather A. Knutson, Tiffany Kataria, Joel C. Schwartz, Nicolas B. Cowan, Adam P. Showman, Adam S. Burrows, Jonathan J. Fortney, Kamen Todorov, Jean Michel Desert, Eric Agol, Drake Deming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


We present new 3.6 and 4.5 μm Spitzer phase curves for the highly irradiated hot Jupiter WASP-33b and the unusually dense Saturn-mass planet HD 149026b. As part of this analysis, we develop a new variant of pixel-level decorrelation that is effective at removing intrapixel sensitivity variations for long observations (>10 hr) where the position of the star can vary by a significant fraction of a pixel. Using this algorithm, we measure eclipse depths, phase amplitudes, and phase offsets for both planets at 3.6 and 4.5 μm. We use a simple toy model to show that WASP-33b's phase offset, albedo, and heat recirculation efficiency are largely similar to those of other hot Jupiters despite its very high irradiation. On the other hand, our fits for HD 149026b prefer a very high albedo. We also compare our results to predictions from general circulation models, and we find that while neither planet matches the models well, the discrepancies for HD 149026b are especially large. We speculate that this may be related to its high bulk metallicity, which could lead to enhanced atmospheric opacities and the formation of reflective cloud layers in localized regions of the atmosphere. We then place these two planets in a broader context by exploring relationships between the temperatures, albedos, heat transport efficiencies, and phase offsets of all planets with published thermal phase curves. We find a striking relationship between phase offset and irradiation temperature: the former drops with increasing temperature until around 3400 K and rises thereafter. Although some aspects of this trend are mirrored in the circulation models, there are notable differences that provide important clues for future modeling efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number83
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • astrochemistry
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • methods: data analysis
  • planetary systems
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: individual (HD 149026b, WASP-33b)


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