But the most visible and enduring contribution of the Carleton program to the field of astronomy was its journals. The Sidereal Messenger, while no longer the only U.S. astronomical publication by the early-1890s, was still the most popular and influential. It was America's best known journal in the field abroad as well. Foreign subscriptions were few compared to domestic, but they provided something especially valuable - exchange subscriptions to the leading astronomical periodicals of Europe. Because of the Messenger, Payne was able to build an impressive astronomical library for Goodsell, without much cost to the College.
When the nation's leading astrophysicist, the University of Chicago's George Ellery Hale, decided to establish a journal devoted to the New Astronomy, he was dissuaded by his friends because of the impossibility of successfully competing with the more traditional Messenger. Hale, not to be denied, struck a bargain with William Payne to co-edit an expanded journal which would be half devoted to "General Astronomy" and half to astrophysics.
So, in 1892 the Messenger died and Astronomy and Astrophysics was born. It, too, was a success, but Payne grew quickly disenchanted-as it seems Hale had hoped from the start he would. Despite its General Astronomy section, the new magazine was much more technical than its predecessor, and Payne watched in dismay as subscriptions from amateur astronomers dropped off.
In 1893, therefore, Payne established his third and last journal, Popular Astronomy, aimed once again at educated and interested lay people. After another year, it became apparent that he could not edit Popular Astronomy and co-edit Astronomy and Astrophysics. Unenthusiastically, he decided to allow Hale to buy him out and transfer the latter journal to Chicago. Hale quickly renamed his publication the Astrophysical Journal, by which name it is known as the foremost professional periodical of astronomy in the world today. But Popular Astronomy, after its first year, had a greater circulation than its new rival, continued to attract articles from the leading astronomers of the world, and would continue to be the best-known journal in the field for another 50 years.