Advert. No. 2020_0036
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 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.


Due to the need for additional resources associated with the Technology Development programme, for its Optical Engineering Department, within the Directorate of Engineering (DoE) at its Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany, ESO is advertising the position of a

Physicist, Optical Engineer


Vacancy closed on 15/09/2020

Deadline 15/09/2020

We are offering a Paid Associate position within the ESO Optical Engineering Department. This is an excellent opportunity for professionals in the early stages of his or her career supporting ESO's Laser Systems R&D activities, related to the construction, integration, installation and commissioning of CaNaPy, a novel Laser Guide Star - Adaptive Optics (LGS-AO) system based on long-pulsed, high power lasers at 589nm, used for uplink correction and Pyramid wavefront sensing on LGS.

The goal of the CaNaPy project is to create an LGS-AO facility to be used at visible wavelengths, and to do with it feasibility and exploratory field experiments, towards optimal future LGS-AO instruments at visible wavelengths, to be done at the ESA Optical Ground Station telescope at Observatorio del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands. The CaNaPy LGS-AO system will be used in monostatic configuration.

The activities will be done in collaboration with several European institutes, including the European Space Agency (ESA). The activities will be based at ESO Headquarters in Garching bei M√ľnchen. They will require lively, flowless interaction and frequent missions to participating European institutes, as well as at the OGS in Tenerife during integration, commissioning and subsequent periodic field tests of LGS-AO technologies.

The activities will offer unique hands-on experience with LGS-AO systems, involving the integration of CaNaPy, its adaptive control on the telescope and operations during novel feasibility experiments related to LGS-AO technologies R&D. Interaction and activities with optics and adaptive optics experts from ground and space European institutes will grant valuable formation to the selected candidate.

The field experiments involve R&D for future applications in Astrophysics and SatCom. Besides hands-on professional formation in the field of LGS-AO, reporting, dissemination of results at conferences and refereed papers will be part of the outcomes of the activities.

The Optical Engineering Department comprises a team of almost 20 engineers. The department provides engineering expertise to ESO's projects within the ESO matrix organisation, in the areas of optical design for telescopes and instruments, active optics and wave front control, metrology for telescope alignment, laser guide stars, optical fibre technology and Assembly Integration and Testing of optical systems and instruments. In addition, the department manages 900m2 of optical and opto-mechanical integration laboratories at ESO headquarters and supports the observatory in solving optical problems arising in systems in operation.

Reports to:

The CaNaPy project manager as well as to the Department Head of the Optical Engineering Department as Functional Manager within ESO's matrix structure.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Participate to the opto-mechanical assembly and integration of the CaNaPy LGS-AO experimental system.
  • Develop together with the project team, the LGS-AO operations and control strategy. Work in connection with LGS-AO experts and developers at the participating institutes.
  • Tailor the existing control system, based on the DARC real time software package, to the application with Pyramid wavefront sensor and pulsed lasers.
  • Participate pro-actively to Commissioning and field experiments, with the responsibility of the CaNaPy instrument integration within the telescope and its control system.

Key Competences and Experience:


  • Good knowledge of Adaptive Optics systems and their control methods;
  • Broad knowledge of optical integration and lab test procedures with electronic and optical devices;
  • Very good knowledge of the DARC adaptive optics control system;
  • Ability in identifying key issues, assessing options, and proposing a way forward to reduce risk and enhance problem control;
  • Be proactive in acquiring new skills and quickly develop expertise in the fields of optical engineering, optical integration, adaptive optics, system control;
  • Provide clear, concise and timely oral and written communications in English;
  • Plan activities, monitor progress of your own work, deliver to agreed deadlines and standards;
  • Ability and motivation to work in a team, flexibility. Building strong collaborative working relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds and engineering disciplines.


  • Minimum 1 year of experience within the area of the aforementioned essential competencies;
  • Very good knowledge of Python and programming skills;
  • Good knowledge in the use of electronic devices for adaptive optics systems;
  • Familiarity with optical laboratory environments.


PhD University degree in either Physics or Optical Engineering.

Language Skills:

A very good command of the English language - oral, reading and writing - is essential and a working knowledge of German or Spanish would be an advantage.

Remuneration and Contract:

We offer an attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary (tax free), comprehensive medical scheme, educational and other social benefits, as well as financial help in relocating your family and the possibility to place your child/children in day-care.

The initial contract is for a fixed-term duration of one year with the possibility of a fixed-term extension of two more years 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 extended duty trips to Italy, UK, Netherlands, Canary Islands.


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

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

Deadline for applications is 15.09.2020.

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, the United Kingdom and Chile irrespective of gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, race or religion.

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