Advert. No. 2021_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 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 Directorate for Science at its Headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany, ESO is advertising the position of

Astronomer / Instrument Project Scientist


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Deadline 15/05/2021

ESO is engaged in the operation and construction of a number of optical and infrared instruments for its observatories. The Instrument Project Scientist follows the development and construction phases of new instruments supporting and nurturing its science goals, ensuring that the top-level requirements are fulfilled and that the operational scenarios are commensurate with the scientific needs and the constraints of the observatory. The development of the instruments may either be carried out by a consortium of universities and institutes, working in collaboration with ESO, or by an internal team at ESO. The Project Scientist is a prime contact for the associated consortia/institutes, as well as for the ESO science community at large when it comes to prepare for and advertise the science.

The successful applicant will be assigned to follow one or more instruments at any given time. We are looking for an enthusiastic and outstanding scientist, with the prime objective to support and follow the ELT spectrograph HARMONI. HARMONI is an integral-field unit (IFU) which will operate both in the optical and near-infrared regimes, providing exquisite two-dimensional coverage of science targets aided by dedicated Single Conjugated and Laser Tomography Adaptive Optics (AO) modules. This highly complex ELT first-light instrument will serve a broad community of scientists addressing topics from planets, galactic and extragalactic systems, to the high-z universe.

Main Duties and Responsibilities

  • Provides strong scientific leadership to the assigned instrument programmes within ESO;
  • Acts as the principal scientific contact to the instrument building consortium;
  • Liaises with ESO's scientific community on issues related to the instruments under their responsibility;
  • Develops, owns and maintains the scientific requirements for the assigned instruments;
  • As a member of the ESO Astronomy Faculty, he/she will be expected and encouraged to conduct a strong personal research programme and to participate actively in the scientific life of ESO;
  • Works closely with the ESO Project Managers, and System Engineers to ensure the implementation of the scientific requirements;
  • Coordinates and connects with the relevant Programme Scientist(s) on the related instruments and projects;
  • Supports the testing, commissioning and early operations. Specifically preparation for the science operation during design, manufacturing/assembly/integration, testing, and commissioning of the instrument in close cooperation with the observatory;
  • Participates in progress meetings and instrument reviews;
  • Tracks the evolving requirements for the assigned instruments emerging from the community;
  • Interacts closely with the observatory and data management teams on operational aspects;
  • Coordinates the activities of the instrument Science Team.

The tasks are not limited to the above and a flexible approach and willingness to adapt are required.

Reports to:

Head of the Project Science Department.

Key Competences and Experience:

Essential Competences and Experience:

  • Demonstrated experience and strong involvement in the key phases of the development of at least one astronomical instrumentation project (initial/final design, system testing, or commissioning and early operations);
  • Experience with the planning, execution, analysis and publication of scientific research arising from said instrumentation;
  • Active research programme and robust publication record;
  • Understanding of the science requirements on instruments and strategies for their realisation;
  • Ability to provide scientific and strategic vision and leadership to geographically dispersed multi-cultural/multi-disciplinary teams within a cost-constrained programme;
  • Proficiency in relevant data reduction methods and tools;
  • Ability to motivate and inspire others and strong influencing skills;
  • Cooperative team player;
  • Ability to work in a clear and structured manner producing meaningful reports to supervisors and presentations to governing bodies;
  • Provides clear, concise and timely oral and written communication, identifying the key issues, examining options, and proposing a way forward;
  • Ability to effectively communicate at all levels and across disciplines within the organisation and with the community;
  • Ability to negotiate with external scientists and instrument builders to achieve ESO's goals.

Desirable Competences and Experience:

  • Significant expertise in spectroscopy (preferably in near-IR) and in particular with integral-field units (IFU's);
  • Good knowledge of adaptive optics techniques, in particular laser tomographic AO;
  • Broader experience following instrument development over most if not all phases from initial design to final commissioning.


Ph.D. in astronomy, 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 help in relocating your family and the possibility to place your child/children in daycare.

The contract is for a fixed-term duration of three years, 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 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.

Serious consideration will be given to outstanding candidates willing to be seconded to ESO on leave from their home institutions. The grade may be subject to change according to qualification and the number of years of experience.

Duty Station:

Garching near Munich, Germany, with duty trips to the ESO sites in Chile as required.

Career Path: V


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 containing a publication list and a research statement. Also required are the names and contact details of three scientists familiar with your work and willing to provide a recommendation letter. Referees will be automatically invited to submit a recommendation 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 15 May 2021.

Interviews are expected to be held soon afterwards.

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, 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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