Begun in 1895 by George E. Hale and James E. Keeler, The Astrophysical Journal is the foremost research journal in the world devoted to recent developments, discoveries, and theories in astronomy and astrophysics. Many of the classic discoveries of the twentieth century have first been reported in the Journal, which has also presented much of the important recent work on quasars, pulsars, neutron stars, black holes, solar and stellar magnetic fields, X-rays, and interstellar matter. In addition, videos that complement specific issues are periodically available.
The Letters section was created as Part 2 of The Astrophysical Journal in 1967 by Chandrasekhar. He cited the need for a separate publishing schedule that allowed astrophysicists to rapidly publish short notices of their "spectacular developments in astronomy", Chandrasekhar, 1967, ApJ, 148, 1. In 1971, the Letters obtained its first editor separate from Part 1. For more information on the history of The Astrophysical Journal, see D. Osterbrock, 1995, ApJ, 438, 1.
The Letters is a peer-reviewed express scientific journal published in paper and electronic formats for the AAS by IOP Publishing. Manuscripts must meet the same criteria for all papers published in The Astrophysical Journal with the additional criteria of timeliness and brevity.
The Astrophysical Journal
Papers published in The Astrophysical Journal present the results of significant original research not previously published. Articles submitted to the Journal should meet this criterion and must not be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Commentary on previously published papers does not constitute significant original research. Authors are advised to examine carefully current issues of the Journal to familiarize themselves with Journal conventions and to note any changes in style before preparing a new paper for submission. In general, Journal style conforms to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) and The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.).
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Letters submitted for publication in Part 2 of The Astrophysical Journal must generally be prepared in the same way as for Part 1. Differences in ApJ Letters policy are indicated in the author guidelines. Letters also must satisfy the further requirements of timeliness and brevity.
A Letter should have a significant immediate impact on the research of a number of other investigators or be of special current interest in astrophysics. Permanent, long-range value is less essential. A Letter can be more speculative and less rigorous than an article for Part 1 but should meet the same high standard of quality.
A Letter must be concise and to the point. Manuscripts submitted to Letters must fit the following parameters:
- Abstract – no more than 250 words
- Main Text – no more than 3500 words
- Figures and Tables – no more than 5 combined figures and tables, e.g. 3 figures and 2 tables. Tables longer than 50 rows will automatically be converted to the AAS Journals' machine readable table format and moved online only. Information about machine readable tables can be found here.
Multi-panel figures must be no larger than the equivalent of one printed page while maintaining legibility when a reader prints the page. Multi-panel figures are limited to 9 panels per figure. The Letters office will be happy to advise authors on whether a figure meets this criterion.
- References – no more than 50 references
New manuscripts that substantially exceed this limit will be returned to the authors. Within this space limitation, sufficient introductory background material should be included, and the content of the paper should be such that it can be generally understood by scientists who are not specialists in the particular field.
The ApJL Manuscript Length Calculator may be accessed at http://aastex2.aas.org/ApJL/countwords.html
Beginning January 28, 2014, authors may submit PDF figures for publication in the journals of the American Astronomical Society. EPS and PS are also an acceptable formats for figure files.
Please contact email@example.com if you have specific questions regarding this change.
Article Charge Reduction for 2014
The AAS is pleased to announce that the price per digital quanta has been reduced from $35 to $30 for word, table, digital component, and figure set quanta. This price reduction will remain in place for all articles published in 2014 issues.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions regarding Digital Quanta.
ApJ Letters Transition
Over the period from September to December 2012, the ApJ Letters editorial responsibilities will be moving gradually from UT Austin (where Chris Sneden is currently Letters Editor) to Northwestern University (where Fred Rasio will become the new Letters Editor on 1 January 2013). Specifically, all new manuscripts submitted to Letters on or after 18 September will be handled by the Northwestern office. Previously submitted manuscripts will continue to be handled by the Austin team until 31 December; it is our hope that a final editorial decision for all these manuscripts will have been made by then.
Effective 18 September we will also start implementing a few minor changes in policies for new Letters, consistent with the journal's rapid publication goals. First, referees will be asked to provide a report "normally within about 10 days" (rather than the two weeks currently used). Second, authors will be expected to respond to reviews and revise their submissions promptly, meaning normally within about six weeks (rather the nominal six months currently used for all papers in ApJ or ApJ Letters).
Article Charge Reduction for 2012
Following the successful implementation of Digital Quanta as the basis for article charges, the AAS is pleased to announce that the price per digital quanta has been reduced from $40 per quanta to $35. This price reduction will remain in place for all articles published in 2012 issues.
Please contact email@example.com if you have specific questions regarding Digital Quanta.
Beginning with volume 744, high-quality digital copies of papers will be available for authors of articles published in the ApJL. A high-resolution PDF will be made available on authors' home pages on IOP's authors site. The high-resolution version can be used by authors to make their own high-quality paper reprints in any quantity on any paper stock at any time they wish. At the same time the journals make these digital files available, the journals will discontinue production of paper offprints.
Beginning in April 2011, the American Astronomical Society will revise its calculation of author charges using an approach that counts units of information in the digital form that the author supplies; we are calling these units "digital quanta". Digital quanta are units of information in digital form that can include words, figures, tables, digital-only components, and figures within a figure set. This is a significant (although mostly invisible) step we are taking to make the AAS journals fully digital.
In revising the author fee process, an important goal for the Society was to maintain the magnitude of article charges to our authoring community. Hence, we do not anticipate that total fees will change very much for the majority of manuscripts.
The per quantum fee in 2011 will be $40; all quanta are priced the same. Authors who choose to print their figures in color in the printed journal will continue to attract a $350 charge per page of color. For a full list of charges, please see the homepage of the corresponding journal and select the link "Article charges".
The digital quanta analysis process will begin effective April 1, 2011. All manuscripts accepted and analyzed before April 1 will be charged using the old page charges system. Manuscripts accepted from April 1, 2011 into the foreseeable future will make use of the digital quanta model. This will mean that for the next several months, it is very likely that you will receive some invoices itemized in page charges while others are itemized in digital quanta. We expect the transition to digital quanta be complete by late summer of 2011.
If you have any questions about this process, please contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starting with the January 2011 issues, the journals of The American Astronomical Society will begin using article numbers in lieu of page numbers. This change is being undertaken to end the individual article’s dependency on continuously paginated volumes and allow for a more efficient and flexible publishing paradigm.
As with page numbers, the article numbers will be a sequence number unique to each article within a volume. In reference lists, the page number attribute is replaced with the article’s sequence number.
Individual articles will continue to have page numbers; however, each article will begin with page 1 rather than continuing from the previous article's final page. This is in line with industry standards as well as among the other major research journals in Astronomy and Astrophysics.
New Peer Review system for ApJ Letters
As of May 3rd, new articles submitted for publication to The Astrophysical Journal Letters should be submitted through a new website:
This change is the latest step in our quest for the best possible publishing experience for our authors, referees, and editors. Although The Astrophysical Journal has decided to move to a new peer review software management system, this will have no impact on the processing and publication of accepted articles. Our publisher will remain IOP Publishing. Their excellent record in getting accepted manuscripts printed and online will be completely unaffected.
Papers currently under review in the IOP peer review system will complete processing there. Our new submission and peer review system will be run by eJournalPress (www.ejpress.com), whose clients include the American Institute of Physics and the Nature Publishing Group. Over the last several months we have worked with them to ensure that the transition will be as smooth as possible, and the submission and refereeing processes will be quick and intuitive. We look forward to working with them, and wish to express our appreciation to IOP Publishing for their excellent, and continuing, work on our behalf.
Comments concerning the new system should be sent to our editorial office email@example.com.
Format Change for The Astrophysical Journal Letters
In 2009, the American Astronomical Society will be taking a step toward eliminating the enterprise-scale printing of its journals. The AAS has decided to produce the Astrophysical Journal Letters (ApJL) entirely on digital production equipment beginning in 2009, and to only print the Letters when absolutely required.
What this means is that customers who previously received ApJL in print, and wish to continue doing so, must clearly specify upon renewal their desire to maintain a print subscription and indicate the format prefered.
Anyone who does not request print delivery will automatically default to the electronic-only option.
Institutional subscribers who require the bound print edition of the ApJL can opt for one of two products:
- Delivery 36 times per year with the main journal
- Delivery once at the end of the year in an annual bundle with only 3 or 4 bindings (not 36)
There will be no additional charge for these print options in 2009, although in future years, the AAS expects to charge print customers for the actual costs of delivering print products. Please contact us with any questions. For inquiries in North or South America, email firstname.lastname@example.org, for information outside of the Americas, contact email@example.com.