Advert. No. 2020_0064
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.


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

Operations Staff Astronomer


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Deadline 15/02/2021

Paranal Staff Astronomers play a key role to optimize the scientific return of the world leading astronomical facility.

In the last years, major new systems have complemented our suite of instruments. This includes the VLTI 2nd generation instruments Gravity & Matisse, the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) on UT4 and the exo-planet machine machine ESPRESSO. ERIS and the MOS facilities MOONS & 4MOST are upcoming systems at the VLT.

Furthermore, preparations for the full integration of the ELT into Paranal Science Operations have started.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to gain and provide expert knowledge on novel instrumentation and will be given the overall responsibility for an instrument at the Very Large Telescope or future ELT. Flexibility exists so as to tailor duties and responsibilities according to personal expertise and interests.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

The successful candidate will:

  • Contribute to the science operations activities for both visitor and service mode at Paranal Observatory. This includes planning and execution of observations, supporting visiting astronomers, and the calibration of instruments.
  • Become instrument scientist for one of the current or future instruments at VLT and ELT. Activities include:
    • improve operations and scientific performance
    • definition, implementation, optimization and characterization of new observing modes
    • set-up of optimized calibration plans
    • contribute to the operations-readiness of the upcoming generation of VLT(-I) and ELT systems.

  • Provide quality assurance and quality control of the scientific data obtained.

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.

Functional duties are carried out for the equivalent of up to 105 nights per year at the Observatory, in either day-, night- or 'classical' shifts on site. Shift length is variable, on average about 8-10 nights on site, followed by the same amount of nights rest time at home. Functional work required and pursued at the ESO campus in Santiago accordingly reduces the required nights to be spent on site.

The rest of the time is spent on personal scientific research at the ESO campus in Santiago. ESO provides various types of financial support to its faculty members, including but not limited to: conference participation and organization, scientific visits, PhD studentships.

Reports to:

The Head of the Paranal Science Operations Department in Chile.

Key Competences and Experience:

We seek a staff astronomer with excellent observing and/or operational experience in areas relevant to VLT(-I) and ELT instrumentation. Continuous expertise exchange between the astronomical community and ESO is important. In this context, applications by colleagues on temporary secondments from their home institution are welcome.

Candidates with a strong background in state-of-the-art observing techniques available at Paranal will be given particular consideration. Such techniques include interferometry and extreme adaptive optics, high resolution and multi-object spectrosopy, time-resolved photometry, etc in the optical and near-to-mid infrared wavelength regions. A keen interest in quality control of astronomical data is required.

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. Good working knowledge of python is a must

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. A strong sense of team spirit is essential.


Ph.D. in Astronomy, Physics or equivalent

Language Skills:

The position requires proficient 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. For any further information and to apply, please visit 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) 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 ESO's conditions of employment. Please note that the contract policy and in particular the regulations concerning fixed-term and indefinite contracts are currently under review which may lead to changes in the contractual conditions applicable to this position.

Duty Station:

Paranal (120 km south of the city of 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 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, CV containing a publication list and a research statement. Also required are the names and contact details of three persons familiar with your work and willing to provide a reference letter. Referees will be automatically invited to submit their letter, however, applicants are strongly advised to trigger these invitations (using the web application form) well in advance of the application deadline.

Closing date for applications is February 15, 2021.

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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