The orbit of WASP-12b is decaying

Samuel W. Yee, Joshua N. Winn, Heather A. Knutson, Kishore C. Patra, Shreyas Vissapragada, Michael M. Zhang, Matthew J. Holman, Avi Shporer, Jason T. Wright

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41 Scopus citations


WASP-12b is a transiting hot Jupiter on a 1.09 day orbit around a late-F star. Since the planet’s discovery in 2008, the time interval between transits has been decreasing by 29 ± 2 ms yr−1. This is a possible sign of orbital decay, although the previously available data left open the possibility that the planet’s orbit is slightly eccentric and is undergoing apsidal precession. Here, we present new transit and occultation observations that provide more decisive evidence for orbital decay, which is favored over apsidal precession by a DBIC of 22.3 or Bayes factor of 70,000. We also present new radial-velocity data that rule out the Rømer effect as the cause of the period change. This makes WASP-12 the first planetary system for which we can be confident that the orbit is decaying. The decay timescale for the orbit is P/P = 3.25 ± 0.23 Myr. Interpreting the decay as the result of tidal dissipation, the modified stellar tidal quality factor is Q* ¢ = 1.8

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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