ESO Remains World’s Most Productive Ground-based Observatory By Far

Neck and neck with space-based Hubble in annual publication statistics

28 maart 2012

Astronomers used observational data from ESO’s telescopes and instruments to write a total of 783 refereed papers during 2011. This is an all-time high in ESO’s history. ESO remains the most productive ground-based observatory by far. Over the past few years the number of papers using observations from ESO has been almost identical to the number from observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, with both rising rapidly after a slight dip in 2009.

The VLT/VLTI alone provided data for 551 papers in 2011, an increase of about 8% since 2010. The total number of papers using VLT/VLTI data is now well above 4000. Papers that use data taken from the ESO archives have been accounting for a steady fraction of 12% during recent years, with a strong increase in 2011.

Remarkably, even if the contribution from ESO’s flagship VLT/VLTI telescopes is excluded from the total, the remaining telescopes on Paranal and at La Silla generate similar numbers of papers each year to the next most productive ground-based observatory, the W. M. Keck Observatory

Taking a closer look at the different instruments on the VLT reveals some interesting patterns. The most productive VLT instruments in terms of papers remain FORS2 and UVES. Newer instruments such as HAWK-I and X-shooter have rapidly rising numbers. The most productive instrument at La Silla is the HARPS planet-hunting spectrograph.

These numbers are extracted from the ESO Telescope Bibliography (telbib,, a database of refereed publications that use ESO data [1]. Telbib connects published articles with the observing programmes that generated the data. It is maintained by the ESO librarians. A detailed description of the telbib database can be found at

Interactive graphs of selected statistics are available at These graphs display the entire contents of the telbib database for publications from the year 1996 to the present. They can be used to explore the development of science papers using data from ESO instruments, the use of archival data as well as the average number of authors and ESO programmes per paper.

Taking a longer view, over the period starting in 1996, almost 12 000 individual authors from nearly 90 countries have published more than 8500 scientific papers based on ESO data.


[1] Journals that are routinely screened for ESO-related keywords are: A&A, A&ARv, AJ, ApJ, ApJS, AN, ARA&A, EM&P, Icarus, MNRAS, Nature, NewA, NewAR, PASJ, PASP, P&SS and Science.



Uta Grothkopf
ESO Librarian
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6280

Lars Lindberg Christensen
Head of ESO ePOD
ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cellular: +49-173-3872-621

Over de Mededeling



Number of papers published using different observatories
Number of papers published using different observatories
Number of papers published using observations from ESO facilities
Number of papers published using observations from ESO facilities