ESO Remains World’s Most Productive Ground-based Observatory

8 mars 2018

The latest survey of peer-reviewed scientific papers published during 2017 has shown that ESO remains the world’s most productive ground-based observatory. Astronomers used observational data from ESO facilities to produce an all-time high of 1085 refereed papers last year. This is the first time in ESO’s history that the number of refereed articles published by the ESO users community has exceeded 1000 papers in a single year.

The largest contribution to the total is the 629 papers credited to ESO in 2017 that used data acquired with either the Very Large Telescope (VLT) or the VLT Interferometer facilities on Cerro Paranal. The three most productive VLT instruments in terms of papers are UVES, FORS2 and X-shooter, which featured in 133, 106 and 103 papers, respectively. The X-shooter and MUSE instruments saw large increases from the previous year, along with VIMOS, VISIR and the VLT Survey Telescope (VST). Data from the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) and the VST on Cerro Paranal led to 101 and 55 papers, respectively.

Facilities located at La Silla provided data for almost 230 papers in total. HARPS remains La Silla’s most productive instrument, with 97 papers to its name. The two highest-ranking papers of the ESO Top 20 list (Riess et al. 1998 and Perlmutter et al. 1999; Table 4 of the Basic ESO Publication Statistics) — which used data from EMMI and EFOSC2, amongst other facilities — are now the top two refereed papers on the ADS server, with more than 10 600 citations each.

European observing time with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) accounted for 152 papers in 2017, bringing the total number of such papers to 462 by the end of 2017 [1]. Observations made with the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope (APEX) in ESO-APEX observing time led to 46 papers in 2017, taking the total of such papers to 350 by the end of 2017 [2]. The continued success of ALMA and APEX contributed significantly to ESO’s record-high number of publications.

A comparison of the number of papers produced using facilities at major observatories worldwide puts ESO’s observatories at the top of the list. Note that the methods used to obtain these numbers differ from one observatory to another, so the figures cannot be compared precisely. Nevertheless, it is clear that ESO continues to significantly surpass any other ground-based observatory and since 2012 has also continued to increase its lead over the runner-up, the single 2.4-metre orbiting NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, according to the available figures.

These results highlight ESO’s major contribution to astronomical research. The publication statistics give an idea of how much scientific work is carried out with data from the individual observatories, but do not address the wider impact they have on science.

The figures are published in the annual Basic ESO Publication Statistics [3] published by ESO’s Library and calculated using the ESO Telescope Bibliography (telbib), a database containing refereed publications that use ESO data [4]. ESO makes extensive efforts to identify all refereed papers that use ESO data and considers telbib essentially complete.

Interactive graphs of selected statistics are also available online. These graphs display the entire content of the telbib database [5], which contains records for publications from 1996 to the present. They can be used to explore many aspects of the publication history, including the development of science papers using data from ESO instruments and the use of archival data.


[1] ALMA is a partnership of ESO, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

The ALMA bibliography is maintained jointly by the librarians at ESO and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) as well as by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). Publications based on data from all ALMA partners are recorded in telbib, but only those based on ESO observing time are counted in the ESO statistics, unless otherwise noted.

[2] APEX is a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, the Onsala Space Observatory and ESO, and is operated by ESO close to ALMA on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile’s Atacama region.

Publications based on data from all APEX partners are recorded in telbib, but only those based on ESO observing time are counted in the ESO statistics, unless otherwise noted.

[3] Basic ESO Publication Statistics (DOI 10.18727/docs/1)

[4] Telbib information and access to the database.

[5] Interactive telbib statistics.


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

Richard Hook
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
Cell: +49 151 1537 3591

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Number of papers published using observational data from different observatories (1996–2017)
Number of papers published using observational data from different observatories (1996–2017)
Number of papers published using observations from ESO facilities (1996–2017)
Number of papers published using observations from ESO facilities (1996–2017)