In 2012, LOFAR will move into an exciting new operational phase as it matures into a full-fledged astronomical observatory. Early in 2012, we will finish the rollout of the final stations, release a stable version of the operational system deploying the first set of science modes, and complete LOFAR's initial commissioning survey, the Multi-frequency Snapshot Sky Survey (MSSS). At this stage, LOFAR will open its doors to the international astronomical community with a first open call for observing proposals. This announcement of opportunity will include a mixture of continued commissioning observations, initial components of the Key Science programs, and for the first time ever true "open sky" observing projects. To advertise this opportunity and educate the astronomy community about LOFAR's unique capabilities, several special presentations have been arranged at a number of major upcoming astronomy conferences.
This LOFAR promotional tour kicked off in January 2012 when a group of astronomers from ASTRON and the KSPs travelled to Austin, Texas in the US for the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting. The winter meeting of the AAS is the primary meeting of the American astronomy community and an excellent opportunity to reach the widest possible audience in the US routinely attracting thousands of astronomers. A Special Session was organized, focusing specifically on LOFAR. In this session, we presented the community with an update on the status of the array and its current scientific capabilities as well as the upcoming opportunities for general, open skies observing. The session also featured a number of short talks highlighting some initial science results obtained during the past year of commissioning and showcasing LOFAR's scientific potential. ASTRON also hosted a booth during the meeting to advertise not only LOFAR, but also APERTIF and other ASTRON initiatives.
This advertising campaign for LOFAR will continue a few months from now in Europe where a similarly focused session on LOFAR has recently been approved for the upcoming 2012 National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) that will take place at the University of Manchester, March 27-30, 2012.
Finally we anticipate having at least one plenary talk at the upcoming European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS, formerly known as JENAM) to be held in Rome, Italy in July. Keep an eye on ASTRON's media channels for updates as we introduce LOFAR to the astronomical world!
The first science results with LOFAR and the kick off of the all-sky survey sparked the interest of many journalists, among whom Eric Hand of Nature magazine: http://www.nature.com/news/radio-array-starts-work-1.9762 and Govert Schilling in Science magazine: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/01/scienceshot-new-telescope-captures.html?ref=hp.