Advert. no. 2016_0002
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 astronomical observatory. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in the Atacama Desert region of Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. The ESO headquarters are located in Garching, near Munich, Germany. ESO is the focal point for Europe's participation in the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) consortium, which is currently constructing a large submillimetre array in the Chilean Andes. The concept and design of a 39-m European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) is also currently underway at ESO.


For its Directorate of Engineering (DoE) at its Headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany, ESO is advertising the position of

Adaptive Optics Physicist/Analyst


Vacancy closed on 04/03/2016

Deadline 04/03/2016

The successful applicant will be part of the Adaptive Optics Systems Group (AOSY) of the System Engineering Department within the DoE.

AOSY is a world leading group in building state-of-the art Adaptive Optics (AO) systems feeding a wide range of astronomical instrumentation (cameras, spectrometers, interferometers) for the telescopes of ESO's La Silla-Paranal Observatory and for the future E-ELT. To date, there are 8 AO systems routinely in operation in Paranal.

For the ESO Very Large Telescope, AOSY is a key player in the development of the Adaptive Optics Facility project, which consists in upgrading Yepun (UT4) to make it an adaptive telescope by replacing the actual secondary mirror by a deformable one, associated to 4 Laser Guide Star Units and two AO modules serving HAWK-I a wide field IR imager and MUSE a visible 3D spectrograph. AOF is now undergoing system tests in Garching and shipment and installation in Paranal already started.

AOSY is also involved in the development of 4 AO modules for the VLTI Auxiliary Telescopes (NAOMI) and is participating to the definition of the AO systems for the E-ELT and its instrumentation. Some of these developments are done in-house at ESO - when manufacturing is usually sub-contracted to industry - but most are developed and built by consortia of Institutes in the community, with ESO being the customer for these instruments.

We are looking for an experienced AO physicist with demonstrated skills in AO system engineering, a marked interest in AO simulations coupled to instrument performance analysis and some knowledge in the field of AO technologies. He/she will be involved in the future new VLT AO modules, the first light AO instruments for E-ELT including their interactions with the telescope control strategy and on the long term in the future most challenging E-ELT AO instruments.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

The successful candidate will

  • Participate to the E-ELT and/or VLT instrument development for what concerns AO activities,
  • Support the E-ELT and VLT AO modules performance analysis by using Octopus, the AO simulation tool developed at ESO,
  • Participate to the development and testing in the lab of new generation AO technologies for future challenging ESO instruments,
  • Prepare and release the technical documentation associated to the AO system and sub-systems development and follow-up the procurement of these sub-systems under the responsibility of the instrument project manager,
  • Be in charge of establishing and managing the complete AO error budgets and of maintaining the AO performance all along the complete development cycle of the AO module,
  • Provide support to the Observatory staff for maintenance and problem solving for delivered AO modules.

Reports to:

The Head of the Adaptive Optics Systems Group


  • At least five years of demonstrated experience in AO system engineering including design, simulation, development, integration and verification in the lab and on-sky,
  • Very good background in Physics related to high angular resolution imaging, atmospheric optics and adaptive optics,
  • Knowledge about AO technologies such as deformable mirrors, wavefront sensing, AO control and calibration,
  • Several years of experience in working in large multi-disciplinary teams,
  • Proficiency in a computer simulation tool (MATLAB, IDL, C and parallel programming...).

Key Competences:

  • Work both on your own initiative and as part of a team,
  • Take over responsibilities and take decisions,
  • Build strong collaborative working relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds and disciplines,
  • Flexibility in adapting to changes of requirements and priorities as well as of assignments,
  • Capability to work for different projects and with different teams (matrix structure), also in parallel.


Engineering or PhD degree in Physics or equivalent

Language Skills:

Excellent command of the English language is essential

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 support in relocating family members and the possibility to place child/children in daycare. 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 organisational requirements, and as defined in the applicable policies and staff rules and regulations. For any further information, please visit

Duty Station:

Garching near Munich, Germany with regular duty trips to all ESO sites in Chile.

Career Path:


Starting date:

As soon as possible


If you are interested in working in areas of frontline technology and in a stimulating international environment, please visit (<>) for further details.

Applicants are invited to apply online via our recruitment portal Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter and your CV. In your CV you should provide us with the names and contact details of three persons familiar with your work and willing to provide a recommendation letter on request.

Closing date for applications is 4 March 2016.

Interviews are expected to start soon after this date.

Although recruitment preference will be given to nationals of ESO Member States (members are: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom) no nationality is in principle excluded.

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

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