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The transiting hot Jupiter XO-2b is an ideal target for multi-object photometry and spectroscopy as it has a relatively bright (V-mag = 11.25) K0V host star (XO-2N) and a large planet-to-star contrast ratio (Rp/Rs ≈ 0.015). It also has a nearby (31farcs21) binary stellar companion (XO-2S) of nearly the same brightness (V-mag = 11.20) and spectral type (G9V), allowing for the characterization and removal of shared systematic errors (e.g., airmass brightness variations). We have therefore conducted a multiyear (2012–2015) study of XO-2b with the University of Arizona's 61'' (1.55 m) Kuiper Telescope and Mont4k CCD in the Bessel U and Harris B photometric passbands to measure its Rayleigh scattering slope to place upper limits on the pressure-dependent radius at, e.g., 10 bar. Such measurements are needed to constrain its derived molecular abundances from primary transit observations. We have also been monitoring XO-2N since the 2013–2014 winter season with Tennessee State University's Celestron-14 (0.36 m) automated imaging telescope to investigate stellar variability, which could affect XO-2b's transit depth. Our observations indicate that XO-2N is variable, potentially due to cool star spots, with a peak-to-peak amplitude of 0.0049 ± 0.0007 R-mag and a period of 29.89 ± 0.16 days for the 2013–2014 observing season and a peak-to-peak amplitude of 0.0035 ± 0.0007 R-mag and 27.34 ± 0.21 day period for the 2014–2015 observing season. Because of the likely influence of XO-2N's variability on the derivation of XO-2b's transit depth, we cannot bin multiple nights of data to decrease our uncertainties, preventing us from constraining its gas abundances. This study demonstrates that long-term monitoring programs of exoplanet host stars are crucial for understanding host star variability.

Available for download on Saturday, January 01, 2022