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Evolution of the Most Cited
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Contact: F.X.Timmes
my one page vitae,
full vitae,
research statement, and
teaching statement.

I've taken a research interest in the evolution of the most cited articles in astronomy and astrophysics, and in which journals the articles are published. First a definition of what is meant by an "astronomy" article. Following Kurtz and Henneken (2018), an astronomy article is defined as one which cites a least one article from one of the main astronomy research journals. This definition should capture most of the breadth of the field without picking up non-astronomy articles. Henceforth, "article" means "astronomy article".

Consider all articles published in 1995. At the end of 1995, find the 50 articles with the most citations. At the end of 1996, again find the 50 articles with the most citations that were published in 1995. Articles with the most citations in 1996 may or may not be the same articles with the most citations in 1995. Repeat this analysis for 1997, 1998 1999, ... to the current epoch. Now you have the evolution of the Top 50 most cited articles published in 1995. We start with 1995 because this is where SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) feels they begin to have complete coverage. Repeat this analysis for articles published in 1996, then 1997, and so on until the present epoch. Some of the conclusions about the evolution of the most cited articles, based on an older dataset spanning 1995 - 2015, are in this AAS YouTube video.

While the data to do this 1995-2019 evolutionary study resides within ADS, mere mortals cannot obtain it from the avaliable interfaces. A special thank you to Edwin Henneken for extracting this data set in early 2016 and again in early 2020.

By Article, By Year:

Congratulations to those who have an article in the Top 50 in any year; it is rare air.

Here are visualizations of the evolution of the Top 50 articles with the most citations (left) and normalized citations (right) published in a given year. Black lines are for articles that were in the Top 50 at some point, but are not among the Top 50 in the current epoch. Click to get a vector graphics pdf if the svg images shown are not adequate.

By Citations By Normalized Citations
image

Published in 1995, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
1995PASP..107..803U
1995ApJS..101..181W
1995Natur.378..355M
1995ApJ...450..559B
1995ARA&A..33..581K
1995PASP..107..375O
1995ApJS..101..117K
1995ApJ...438..763G
1995ApJ...455....7M
1995A&A...293..889P
image

Published in 1995, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
1995PASP..107..803U
1995ApJS..101..181W
1995Natur.378..355M
1995ApJ...441...18M
1995ARA&A..33..581K
1995ApJ...447L..25B
1995ApJS..101..117K
1995A&A...301..321W
1995Natur.378..571R
1995ApJ...438..763G
image

Published in 1996, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
1996A&AS..117..393B
1996ApJ...462..563N
1996AJ....112.1487H
1996AJ....111.1748F
1996ARA&A..34..749S
1996ApJ...464..943I
1996ApJ...469..437S
1996Icar..124...62P
1996MNRAS.283.1388M
1996AJ....112..839C
image

Published in 1996, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
1996A&AS..117..393B
1996AJ....112.1487H
1996ApJ...462..563N
1996ApJ...469..355F
1996ARA&A..34..749S
1996ApJ...464..943I
1996ApJ...469..437S
1996ApJ...457..355G
1996ApJ...461...20H
1996ApJ...464..641M
image

Published in 1997, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
1997ApJ...490..493N
1997A&A...323L..49P
1997Sci...278.1257B
1997A&AS..125..149D
1997Natur.385..219H
1997A&A...326..950F
1997ARA&A..35..309F
1997ApJS..112..315H
1997ApJ...490..368C
1997ApJ...483..565P
image

Published in 1997, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
1997ApJ...490..493N
1997Natur.385..219H
1997ARA&A..35..309F
1997AJ....113.1733H
1997Icar..126..261W
1997A&A...326..950F
1997Sci...276.1836B
1997MNRAS.286..513R
1997ApJ...490..368C
1997ARA&A..35..503M
image

Published in 1998, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
1998ApJ...500..525S
1998AJ....116.1009R
1998ARA&A..36..189K
1998AJ....115.1693C
1998ApJ...498..541K
1998RvMP...70..223G
1998AJ....115.2285M
1998SSRv...85..161G
1998A&A...337..403B
1998PASP..110..761F
image

Published in 1998, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
1998ARA&A..36..189K
1998ApJ...500..525S
1998ApJ...498..541K
1998ARA&A..36..435M
1998SSRv...85..161G
1998PASP..110..863P
1998RvMP...70....1B
1998ApJ...494L..45P
1998A&A...331L...1S
1998RvMP...70..223G
image

Published in 1999, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
1999ApJ...517..565P
1999ApJS..123....3L
1999Natur.399..429P
1999ApJ...524L..19M
1999MNRAS.308..119S
1999ApJ...522...82K
1999A&A...349..389V
1999PASP..111...63F
1999ApJ...524..262M
1999ApJ...519....1S
image

Published in 1999, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
1999PASP..111...63F
1999MNRAS.304..793C
1999MNRAS.308..119S
1999SSRv...90..413R
1999ApJ...524..262M
1999ApJ...520..706C
1999ApJ...525..737R
1999MNRAS.308L..39F
1999MNRAS.303L...1B
1999ApJ...522...82K
image

Published in 2000, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2000AJ....120.1579Y
2000ApJ...533..682C
2000ApJ...539L...9F
2000ApJ...538..473L
2000ApJ...539L..13G
2000A&A...355L..27H
2000A&AS..141..371G
2000ApJ...542..914W
2000Natur.404..955D
2000A&A...358..593S
image

Published in 2000, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2000ApJ...539L...9F
2000PhRvD..62d3511A
2000ApJ...538..473L
2000A&A...363.1081C
2000MNRAS.318..203S
2000Sci...289..270C
2000ApJ...536..571B
2000A&AS..144..363A
2000PASP..112.1383D
2000ApJ...542..914W
image

Published in 2001, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2001MNRAS.322..231K
2001ApJ...553...47F
2001Sci...292..686Z
2001MNRAS.321..559B
2001A&A...365L..27T
2001MNRAS.328.1039C
2001ApJ...548..296W
2001Sci...294.2130B
2001ApJ...556..121K
2001Sci...294.2345W
image

Published in 2001, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2001MNRAS.322..231K
2001PASP..113.1420V
2001AJ....121.2851C
2001ApJ...548..296W
2001ApJ...550..212B
2001ApJ...553..174G
2001PASP..113.1449C
2001RvMP...73.1031F
2001ApJ...556..562C
2001Sci...292..686Z
image

Published in 2002, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2002PhRvD..66j3511L
2002ApJ...574..740T
2002AJ....123..485S
2002AJ....124..266P
2002AJ....124.1810S
2002AJ....123.2121S
2002ApJ...580L.171M
2002PhRvD..66d3507B
2002RvMP...74.1015W
2002Sci...295...82K
image

Published in 2002, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2002PhRvD..66j3511L
2002Sci...295...82K
2002A&A...385..337T
2002RvMP...74..825B
2002Sci...296.1679O
2002ApJ...580L.171M
2002RvMP...74..775W
2002A&A...382...28S
2002A&A...381..923S
2002ARA&A..40..137M
image

Published in 2003, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2003ApJS..148..175S
2003MNRAS.344.1000B
2003PASP..115..763C
2003ApJS..148....1B
2003RvMP...75..559P
2003ApJ...591.1220L
2003MNRAS.346.1055K
2003PhRvD..68d6005K
2003RvMP...75..715Z
2003AJ....125..984M
image

Published in 2003, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2003PASP..115..763C
2003MNRAS.344.1000B
2003ApJ...591.1220L
2003RvMP...75..715Z
2003RvMP...75..559P
2003ARA&A..41..241D
2003JHEP...05..013M
2003ARA&A..41...57L
2003RvMP...75..403U
2003PhRvD..68l3512N
image

Published in 2004, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2004ApJ...607..665R
2004PhRvD..69j3501T
2004ApJS..154...10F
2004ApJ...611.1005G
2004ApJ...613..898T
2004ApJS..154....1W
2004MNRAS.351.1151B
2004ApJS..154...25R
2004PhRvD..70d3528C
2004ApJ...606..702T
image

Published in 2004, Top 10 by normailzied citations, current epoch:
2004RvMP...76.1143P
2004PhRvD..70h3509B
2004PhRvD..69j5009K
2004MNRAS.353..550B
2004ARA&A..42..603K
2004PASP..116..138C
2004ApJ...604L..89H
2004RvMP...76..125M
2004MNRAS.348L..59P
2004PhRvD..69d4026K
image

Published in 2005, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2005MNRAS.364.1105S
2005Natur.435..629S
2005ApJ...633..560E
2005A&A...440..775K
2005RvMP...77..633F
2005ApJ...622..759G
2005Natur.433..604D
2005SSRv..120..165B
2005AJ....129.1993M
2005MNRAS.363....2K
image

Published in 2005, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2005MNRAS.364.1105S
2005MNRAS.362..799M
2005RvMP...77..633F
2005Natur.433..604D
2005RvMP...77..207V
2005PhRvD..72d3514W
2005ARA&A..43..435H
2005ApJS..159..141V
2005PhRvD..72d3529L
2005ApJ...621..227M
image

Published in 2006, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2006AJ....131.1163S
2006MNRAS.365...11C
2006A&A...447...31A
2006MNRAS.370..645B
2006AJ....131.2332G
2006ApJ...651..142H
2006ApJS..163....1H
2006ARA&A..44...49R
2006MNRAS.372..961K
2006PhRvD..74l3507T
image

Published in 2006, Top 10 by normailzied citations, current epoch:
2006ApJ...651..142H
2006PASP..118.1711W
2006ARA&A..44...49R
2006MNRAS.368....2D
2006ApJ...648L..51S
2006ARA&A..44..507W
2006ApJ...641..689V
2006RvMP...78..591M
2006MNRAS.368.1561M
2006RvMP...78..309M
image

Published in 2007, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2007ApJS..170..377S
2007A&A...474..653V
2007MNRAS.379.1599L
2007ARA&A..45..565M
2007ApJ...659...98R
2007ApJ...660L..43N
2007AJ....133..734B
2007MNRAS.375....2D
2007ApJ...657..810D
2007Sci...318.1737H
image

Published in 2007, Top 10 by normailzied citations, current epoch:
2007A&A...474..653V
2007ARA&A..45..565M
2007AJ....133..734B
2007ApJ...665.1489K
2007MNRAS.375....2D
2007ApJ...657..810D
2007RvMP...79.1267G
2007PhRvD..76f4004H
2007ARA&A..45..177C
2007ApJ...669.1167B
image

Published in 2008, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2008A&A...486..951G
2008MNRAS.391.1685S
2008ApJS..175..297A
2008A&A...482..883M
2008ApJS..178...89D
2008AJ....136.2782L
2008ApJ...686..749K
2008ApJ...688..709T
2008SSRv..136...67H
2008AJ....136.2846B
image

Published in 2008, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2008ARA&A..46..289T
2008ARA&A..46..475H
2008ARA&A..46..339W
2008ApJ...681.1183K
2008MNRAS.384..449F
2008ApJ...682L...5S
2008PhRvD..77f3530M
2008ApJ...687.1264M
2008PhRvD..78j6003S
2008A&A...490..905H
image

Published in 2009, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2009ApJS..180..330K
2009ARA&A..47..481A
2009ApJS..182..543A
2009ApJ...697.1071A
2009ApJS..180..306D
2009Natur.458..607A
2009ApJS..180..225H
2009PhRvD..79f4036N
2009MNRAS.398.1601F
2009PhRvD..79a5014A
image

Published in 2009, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2009ARA&A..47..481A
2009ARA&A..47...63S
2009RvMP...81.1199L
2009ApJ...700.1299J
2009PhRvD..79f4036N
2009MNRAS.398.1601F
2009ApJ...707..916F
2009JHEP...09..112C
2009MNRAS.392..590B
2009MNRAS.393.1531G
image

Published in 2010, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2010AJ....140.1868W
2010A&A...518L...1P
2010RvMP...82..451S
2010Natur.467.1081D
2010A&A...518L...2P
2010Sci...327..977B
2010A&A...518L...3G
2010MNRAS.401.2148P
2010RvMP...82.2313S
2010ApJ...721..193P
image

Published in 2010, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2010RvMP...82..451S
2010MNRAS.401..791S
2010ARA&A..48..495F
2010PhRvD..81l7301L
2010RvMP...82..209G
2010CQGra..27h4006H
2010PhRvD..82d4020D
2010MNRAS.403.1413K
2010Natur.467.1081D
2010RvMP...82.2313S
image

Published in 2011, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2011ApJS..192...18K
2011ApJ...737..103S
2011AJ....142...72E
2011ApJS..192....3P
2011ApJS..192...16L
2011MNRAS.416.3017B
2011ApJS..197...35G
2011ApJS..197...36K
2011ApJ...730..119R
2011ApJS..193...29A
image

Published in 2011, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2011ApJ...737..103S
2011MNRAS.414.2446M
2011RvMP...83...11K
2011ARA&A..49...67W
2011ApJS..192...18K
2011A&A...529A..75C
2011ARA&A..49..195A
2011CQGra..28u3001A
2011ApJ...729..133M
2011MNRAS.415L..40B
image

Published in 2012, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2012MNRAS.427..127B
2012ARA&A..50..531K
2012ApJ...746...85S
2012ARA&A..50..455F
2012ApJS..199...31N
2012ApJS..203...21A
2012AJ....144....4M
2012A&A...537A.146E
2012JHEP...08..098D
2012Sci...338.1183S
image

Published in 2012, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2012ARA&A..50..455F
2012AJ....144....4M
2012RvMP...84..671H
2012ARA&A..50..531K
2012Sci...337..927G
2012ARA&A..50..107L
2012ARA&A..50...29C
2012MNRAS.419.3115B
2012JCAP...08..007W
2012ApJ...746..125H
image

Published in 2013, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2013ApJS..208...19H
2013PASP..125..306F
2013A&A...558A..33A
2013Sci...340..448A
2013ARA&A..51..511K
2013ApJS..208...20B
2013ApJ...770...57B
2013AJ....145...10D
2013ApJS..208....4P
2013A&A...556A...2V
image

Published in 2013, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2013PASP..125..306F
2013ARA&A..51..511K
2013Sci...342E...1I
2013ApJ...770...57B
2013ApJS..208....9P
2013ApJ...764..184M
2013ARA&A..51..393C
2013ARA&A..51..207B
2013MNRAS.428.2840H
2013ARA&A..51..269D
image

Published in 2014, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2014A&A...571A..16P
2014A&A...571A..22P
2014ARA&A..52..415M
2014A&A...571A...1P
2014MNRAS.444.1518V
2014A&A...568A..22B
2014MNRAS.441...24A
2014ApJS..211...17A
2014PASP..126..398H
2014MNRAS.445..581H
image

Published in 2014, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2014ARA&A..52..415M
2014ARA&A..52...43B
2014ARA&A..52..487S
2014ARA&A..52..529Y
2014SSRv..183..277R
2014ApJ...780...87M
2014MNRAS.440.1138E
2014ARA&A..52..589H
2014MNRAS.441.3359D
2014ApJ...783L...6W
image

Published in 2015, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2015MNRAS.446..521S
2015ApJS..219...12A
2015ApJS..218...23A
2015ApJS..220...15P
2015CQGra..32g4001L
2015ApJ...803...34B
2015A&A...577A..42B
2015ApJ...798....7B
2015MNRAS.449..835R
2015ApJ...808L...3A
image

Published in 2015, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2015ApJ...801...41R
2015ApJS..216...29B
2015MNRAS.450...53H
2015ARA&A..53..365N
2015PASP..127.1161K
2015ARA&A..53...51S
2015PASP..127..994B
2015ApJ...807...45D
2015RvMP...87..137E
2015MNRAS.450L..16M
image

Published in 2016, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2016A&A...594A..13P
2016A&A...594A..20P
2016A&A...595A...1G
2016A&A...595A...2G
2016ApJ...826...56R
2016A&A...594A...1P
2016A&A...594A..11P
2016A&A...594A..17P
2016A&A...594A..14P
2016A&A...595A...4L
image

Published in 2016, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2016ApJS..222....8D
2016ARA&A..54..529B
2016Natur.531..591D
2016ARA&A..54..441N
2016PhRvD..93b3527S
2016ARA&A..54..401O
2016ARA&A..54..597C
2016PhRvD..93a5017P
2016ApJ...819L..21L
2016ApJ...824L..31B
image

Published in 2017, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2017ApJ...848L..12A
2017ApJ...848L..13A
2017MNRAS.470.2617A
2017ApJ...851L..35A
2017ApJ...848L..14G
2017AJ....154...94M
2017JHEP...01..087E
2017MNRAS.465.1454H
2017Sci...358.1556C
2017PhRvD..95d3541H
image

Published in 2017, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2017MNRAS.466..798C
2017MNRAS.465...76M
2017ApJ...836..244W
2017ApJ...850L..19M
2017RvMP...89b5001B
2017ARA&A..55..343B
2017PhRvD..95d3541H
2017MNRAS.464.2174B
2017JHEP...01..087E
2017ApJS..230...15M
image

Published in 2018, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2018A&A...616A...1G
2018PhRvD..98c0001T
2018A&A...616A...2L
2018AJ....156..123A
2018AJ....156...58B
2018ApJS..235...42A
2018PhRvD..98d3526A
2018A&A...616A...9L
2018Natur.555...67B
2018ApJ...859..101S
image

Published in 2018, Top 10 by normalized citations, current epoch:
2018Natur.555...71B
2018AJ....156...58B
2018Natur.558..219I
2018ApJS..236...16V
2018PhRvD..97j3014S
2018ARA&A..56...83B
2018MNRAS.475.5618B
2018RvMP...90d5002B
2018ApJ...852L..25R
2018ARA&A..56..393M
image

Published in 2019, Top 10 by citations, current epoch:
2019ApJ...873..111I
2019ApJ...875L...1E
2019JHEP...11..075G
2019ApJ...882L..24A
2019ApJ...876...85R
2019CQGra..36n3001B
2019JCAP...02..056A
2019JHEP...01..106E
2019PASP..131a8002B
2019ApJ...878..136Z
image

Published in 2019, Top 10 by normailized citations, current epoch:
2019JHEP...11..075G
2019MNRAS.484.2832V
2019PhRvD..99h3510D
2019JCAP...02..041A
2019PhRvD..99f3514D
2019PhRvD..99j1301B
2019AJ....157..113B
2019MNRAS.482.1966R
2019MNRAS.482.1525V
2019PhRvD..99b3529W




Trends By Article:

How many articles in a given year ever make it into the Top 50?

Below are the cumulative number of the Top 50 articles with the most citations (left) and normalized citations (right) versus the number of years post publication. The 2 year journal impact factor window is shown as the grey vertical band. The number of articles at the journal impact window is ≈ 70 ± 10 for all years, 1995-2019. As time after publication progresses more articles enter the Top 50, implying that some articles are leaving the Top 50. By 10 years after publication the cumulative number of Top 50 articles is ≈ 100 ± 10, and by 20 years after publication its ≈ 110 ± 10. No histogram become flat, meaning the top 50 has frozen; there is evolution within the Top 50 even 25 years after publication. Click to get a vector graphics pdf if the svg images shown are not adequate.
By Citations By Normalized Citations
image image




How many articles within the journal impact factor window remain in the Top 50 as time progresses?

Below are the percentages of articles that reeside within the 2 year journal impact factor window and remain within the Top 50 versus the number of years post publication. All publication years have a steep drop in year 3 post-publication with 60% ± 10%. The trend toward a lower percentage is independent of the publication year. By 10 years after publication the percentage is 35% ± 10%, by 20 years after publication its 25% ± 10%. There is some evidence that evolution for articles published in 1995 has frozen; no additional articles originally within the journal impact window are exiting the Top 50. My concludions these two plots are that journal impact factors largely measure shot noise, while it takes the astronomy community decadal timescales to assess the long-term value of an article. Click to get a vector graphics pdf if the svg images shown are not adequate.
By Citations By Normalized Citations
image image




By Journal:

Where are these Top 50 articles published?

The data shows only 16 journals have representation in the Top 50 evolutions shown above. By their ADS bibstems these 16, with their total number of occurences in the Top 50, are: AAS (AJ, ApJ including Letters, ApJS; 7673), MNRAS (1918), A&A (1522), Natur (1212), PhRvD (1103), Sci (634), ARA&A (571), RvMP (504), PASP (334), JCAP (221), JHEP (186), SSRv (180), CQGra (67), PASJ (56), Icar (47), and NuPhS (1).

First consider this histogram for articles published in 1995 where only the 6 journals with the most Top 50 entries are shown:


image



Now remove the white space from between the years to form a continuum. Then shrink the x-axis to be about 2 cm wide or so while keeping the y-axis the same height. Repeat this histogram process for articles published in 1996, 1997 ... to the present epoch, making the width of each x-axis progressively smaller because there are less years to cover. Another way to phrase this step is that one year has a fixed width; a longer time span means a longer x-axis, a shorter time span means a shorter x-axis.

Now take all of these annual, white-space-squeezed, shrunk x-axis histograms and merge them together. What you get is a type of stellar astrophysics "Kippenhahn diagram" for the journals that shows the evolution of the Top 50 in a given year and the global evolution over the entire 1995-2019 period:


image


And for the normalized citation counts:


image


Conclusions from this unique dataset and first-of-its-kind figures are being prepared for a refereed BAAS article and an updated AAS YouTube video.