The Productivity of Ground-Based Optical Telescopes of Various Apertures
By scanning the papers published during the first quarter of 1996 in A&A. AJ, ApJ, Icarus, and MNRAS, and by noting those that were based on optical ground-based telescopes of various apertures, we learned that 82% of the papers carne from telescopes with <4-m apertures; the weighted mean aperture was 2.52-m. By counting the 1996-2001 citations to those papers, we learned that 75% ofthe citations carne from telescopes of <4-m apertures; the weighted mean aperture for the citations was 2.81-m. The mean citations per paper showed only a small dependence upon aperture. For example, telescopes of 5-to 10-m produce only twice as many citations per paper on the average as those of 1- to 2-m. Scanning the papers in the same journals during the first quarter of 2001 showed that 79% of the papers carne from telescopes <4-m and the mean aperture was 2.81-m, which represent only small changes since 1996. These numbers suggest that the bulk of our ground-based optical astronomical results come from telescopes of <4-m in aperture, and that is likely to continue to be true throughout the 2001-2010 decade. The 2001 decadal astronomy survey report made no
recommendations for the maintenance, new instrumentation, and new construction of those telescopes that provide most of the astronomical results derived from ground-based optical telescopes. Although commendable in other respects, that survey represents an unrealistic appraisal of contemporary optica! ground-based astronomy and its needs during this decade.