Advert. no. 2015_0051
Working at ESO

Are you interested in working in areas of frontline technology and in a stimulating international environment? Do you feel your profile matches our requirements? Learn more about our current vacancies and apply online. Read more..

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive ground-based astronomical observatory. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries.

ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in northern Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor (home to ALMA and APEX), and the ESO Headquarters are located in Garching, near Munich, Germany.

At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky" and whose operations will be fully integrated into the Paranal Observatory.

For its Science Operations Department at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, ESO is opening the position of:

Adaptive Optics Scientist - Staff Astronomer


Vacancy closed on 29/02/2016

Deadline 29/02/2016

Adaptive Optics Scientist - Staff Astronomer

Paranal Staff Astronomers contribute to the challenge of operating the world leading astronomical facility and optimizing its scientific output. Over the next years, major new systems will complement the available suite of instruments, in particular the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) on UT4 with a deformable secondary mirror, four Laser Guide Stars and the adaptive optics modules GRAAL and GALACSI. Other upcoming systems include the VLTI 2nd generation instruments as well as ESPRESSO, MOONS, ERIS and 4MOST. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to join the group of Paranal System Scientists to provide and gain expert knowledge on novel AO instrumentation and be given the overall responsibility for the scientific operations of AO Instruments at the Very Large Telescope. In the long-term perspective, involvement in the AO instrumentation for the E-ELT is a possibility.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

As part of the operations team, the successful candidate will:

  • Support and coordinate the activities of the AO instrument operation teams to (1) monitor and improve operations efficiency and scientific performance, and (2) align approaches to common operational aspects such as scheduling and quality control.
  • Be part of the department's System Scientists team to review, coordinate and propose change requests for AO-equipped systems
  • Be part of the Paranal System Engineering group to coordinate AO activities at observatory level
  • Work with the instrumentation teams at ESO Garching and on Paranal on the operations readiness of the next generation of AO-equipped instruments and facilities to be integrated into VLT operations, including but not limited to the UT4 Adaptive Optics Facility.
  • Contribute to regular operations support of Paranal Observatory, including short-term scheduling of observations, calibration of instruments and the assessment of the scientific quality of astronomical data.

The successful candidate can also lead an instrument operations team and be responsible for the definition, implementation, optimization and characterisation of new observing modes, the set-up of optimized calibration plans, and the integration of these system with the automatic data reduction pipelines.

The successful candidate will be member of the ESO Science Faculty, with an appointment at the level of Assistant or Associate Astronomer. S/he will be expected and encouraged to actively conduct astronomical research. Up to 105 nights per year are spent at the Observatory carrying out functional duties.

The rest of the time is spent on scientific research in the ESO office in Santiago. Financial support for scientific trips and stays at other institutions, including in Europe, is provided to all Paranal Staff Astronomers.

Please visit the public webpage of the Science Operations Department for more detailed information of our working conditions and career prospects: (<>)

Reports to:

The Head of the Paranal Science Operations Department in Chile.


We seek a staff astronomer with substantial experience in state-of-the-art Adaptive Optics instrumentation and scientific operations who is eager to engage in this long-term position in the Observatory.

Key Competences:

Candidates with a strong background in state-of-the-art adaptive optics / high-contrast observing techniques will be given particular consideration. Very good self-organization and time management, coupled with the ability to prioritize multiple tasks are a must. Communication and interpersonal skill are required, with the ability to adapt and to work efficiently in a multi-cultural environment, both independently and within a team. A strong sense of team spirit is essential.

The ideal candidate will be an active researcher and have excellent observation-oriented research records, will be familiar with instrumental, data analysis, archiving and/or observational techniques, and must be conversant with at least one major data reduction package such as IRAF or IDL. Candidates should preferably have a proven ability to identify technical issues and potential risks, and experience with real-time troubleshooting.


Ph.D. in Astronomy or Physics.

Language Skills:

The position requires a working knowledge of English. A working knowledge of Spanish, or a willingness to learn it, would be advantageous.

Remuneration and Contract:

We offer an attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary (tax free), comprehensive pension scheme and medical, educational and other social benefits, as well as financial help in relocating your family.

The contract is for a fixed term duration of three years, and is subject to successful completion of the probation period. There is a possibility of extension(s) subject to individual performance and organizational requirements, and as defined in the applicable policies and staff rules and regulations. For any further information, please visit <>.

Duty Station:

Paranal (130 km near Antofagasta, North of Chile) and Santiago, Chile.

Career Path: V


If you are interested in working in areas of frontline technology and in a stimulating international environment, please visit (<>) for further details. Also check the public webpage of the Paranal Science Operations Department (<>) for further information specific to the work as astronomer on Paranal.

Applicants are invited to apply online at <>. Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter and CV.

Closing date for applications is February 29, 2016.

The position requires three letters of reference to be sent to .

Interviews are expected to start soon after this date.

No nationality is in principle excluded. However, recruitment preference will be given to nationals of Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

The post is equally open to suitably qualified female and male applicants.

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