Advert. No. 2019_0053
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, and will host and operate the southern array of the Cherenkov Telescope Array, the world's largest and most sensitive high energy gamma-ray observatory. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky" and whose operations will be fully integrated into the Paranal Observatory.

Paranal Staff have the opportunity and challenge to contribute to the operation of the world leading astronomical facility and optimize its scientific output.


For its Science Operations Department (PSO) within the Directorate of the La Silla Paranal Observatory, ESO is advertising the position of:

Atmosphere Scientist


Vacancy closed on 15/12/2019

Deadline 15/12/2019

Key tasks of the Atmosphere Scientist are to:

  • Maximise the knowledge and understanding of current and forecast atmospheric conditions at ESO observatories including the future ELT
  • Ensure that this knowledge is used in the best possible way to optimize the scientific output of the Observatory

This is a new position, so some flexibility exists to shape duties and responsibilities according to personal expertise and interests.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

The successful candidate will:

Coordinate the activities of the astrometeorology group within the Paranal Science Operations department, which focuses on project development in the following areas:

  • Use currently measured atmospheric parameters to optimize VLT observing efficiency
  • Include new Astronomical Site Monitor (ASM) infrastructure to the site, in order to improve measurement accuracy of relevant parameters or include new parameters
  • Forecast atmospheric conditions, including but not limited to parameters most relevant to ELT
  • Ensure smooth operational implementation of new developments, with the goal to optimize the scientific output of the Observatory.

Chair the Astronomical Site Monitor (ASM) System Operations Team whose responsibilities are to:

  • Ensure adequate description of the environmental conditions at Paranal (and later ELT) via the ASM
  • Ensure adequate quality of the data provided by the ASM
  • Ensure proper archival and database ingestion of the data provided by the ASM
  • Define maintenance/calibration plan for the ASM instruments.
  • Work in close collaboration with partners across the Organization (including JAO & APEX) and externally (e.g. ECMWF and other institutes), to maintain and develop state-of-the-art ASM infrastructure and tools.

Participate to regular science operations support, at a level compatible with the above-mentioned tasks, to:

  • Understand science operations requirements regarding atmospheric monitoring and,
  • Train staff on adequate usage and background of atmospheric monitoring

The ideal candidate will be a scientist with a very good understanding of atmosphere physics, pertinent experience in managing and/or developing atmospheric monitoring facilities for large Observatories, and involvement in astronomical research. Depending on expertise and preference, the selected candidate may:

- Be appointed at the Scientist level: In this case, the equivalent of up to 135 nights per year are spent on functional duties (generally on-site, and off-site if required). The rest of the time is available for research according to personal preference.

- Become a member of the ESO Science Faculty, with an appointment at the level of Assistant or Associate Astronomer: S/he will then be expected and encouraged to actively conduct astronomical research and be evaluated on the personal research in addition to the functional work. In this case, the equivalent of up to 105 nights per year are spent on functional duties (generally on-site, and off-site if required). The rest of the time is spent on scientific research in the ESO office in Santiago.

Reports to:

The Head of the Paranal Science Operations Department in Chile.

Key Competences and Experience:

Candidates with a very good knowledge of atmosphere physics, and a strong background in developing, commissioning, and/or operating state-of-the-art atmospheric monitoring techniques and facilities required at Paranal will be given particular consideration (e.g. DIMM, MASS, SCIDAR). Proven experience in system analysis and data mining, and a formal background in atmosphere physics or meteorology, will be an asset.

The ideal candidate will be involved in astronomical research and have a solid observation-oriented research record, will be familiar with instrumental, data analysis, archiving and/or observational techniques, and must be conversant with at least one major data analysis programming language such as python.

A strong sense of team spirit is essential. Candidates should preferably have a proven ability to identify technical issues and potential risks, and experience with real-time troubleshooting. Very good self-organization and time management is a must, coupled with the ability to prioritize multiple tasks. 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.


Ph.D. in Astronomy, Physics or equivalent.

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, 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 pre-employment medical examination and completion of the probation period. There is a possibility of extension(s), and the possibility of an indefinite contract, 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 Observatory located 120 km south of the city of Antofagasta, Chile.

Career Path:



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 job webpage of the Paranal Science Operations Department (

Applicants are invited to apply online at Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter, a research statement and a CV (with list of publications).

The position also requires three letters of reference to be submitted by the deadline.

Closing date for applications is 15 December 2019

Interviews are expected to start soon after this date.

No nationality is in principle excluded, however, recruitment preference will be given to nationals of Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom irrespective of gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, race or religion.

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