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The Optical Monitor (OM) is a 30 cm aperture Ritchey--Chr\'etien telescope for optical and UV band observations from space. It is being developed by a multi-national consortium of research groups, including a group at Penn State University. The OM is one of three instruments on the X--ray Multi-mirror Mission (XMM) observatory, and is co--aligned with the X--ray telescopes. It has long been a goal to perform simultaneous monitoring of X--ray targets in the UV and optical wave--bands in order to elucidate the source structure and emission mechanisms of X--ray sources. OM will provide the capability for monitoring targets for UV and optical variability, and for imaging the optical counterparts of X--ray sources simultaneously with the X--ray observations obtained with the other two instruments on XMM.
To be launched in 1999, the XMM observatory is the second cornerstone of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Horizon 2000 science program. It will be placed in a deep, eccentric, 48 hour orbit allowing long, uninterrupted observations by the three co--aligned instruments: the European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC); the Reflection Grating Spectrograph (RGS); and the Optical Monitor (OM). The high collection efficiency X--ray optics, deep Earth orbit, and the OM's optical and UV capabilities make XMM ideally suited for variability studies.
Launch is now little more than four years away, yet the US astronomical community is relatively unaware of XMM's capabilities, particularly the capabilities of the Optical Monitor. This poster is a brief introduction to the OM's capabilities and current status.
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