Advert. No. 2021_0023
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 Observing Programmes Office, within the Directorate for Science at its Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany, ESO is advertising the position of

Observing Programme Office Astronomer


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Deadline 30/09/2021

The core mission of the Observing Programme Office (OPO), within the Directorate for Science, covers two main aspects: the handling of the ESO observing programmes (from the preparation and issuing of the Call for Proposal to the organisation of the Observing Programme Committee - OPC - meeting) and the subsequent scheduling of those proposals that were evaluated positively by the OPC. OPO is also responsible for maintaining the observing schedule, for interacting with representatives of the ESO community for the coordination of observing time (e.g., Guaranteed Time Observations, Public Surveys), for handling the Director Discretionary Time Proposals and for providing statistics on time demand and allocation to ESO Governing Bodies and to high-level Officers in the Members States.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

The Astronomer at the Observing Programmes Office (OPO) is responsible for supporting the preparation and selection of observing proposals and the scheduling of the selected observing runs for all ESO telescopes. The OPO Astronomer prepares the Call for Observing Proposals for the La Silla Paranal Observatory. He/she is responsible for the handling of the Phase 1 proposals, and supports users during the Phase 1 proposal preparation and submission phase. He/she prepares telescope time allocation statistics. Further to this, the OPO Astronomer supports the recruitment of the Observing Programmes Committee and Panel members. He/she is responsible for fostering strong key relationships and maintaining good communication with the following key stakeholders:

  • Internal: Office of the Director General, VLT and VLTI Programme Scientists, User Support Department, Paranal Science Operations, SCS Software Engineers, ESO Archive, ESO Council, ESO Scientific Technical Committee, ESO Users Committee.
  • External: Principal Investigators, Member-state institutes, Observing Programmes Committee, high-level academic or governmental officers in the Member States.

As a member of the ESO Astronomy Faculty, the OPO Astronomer is expected and encouraged to conduct a strong personal research programme and to participate actively in the scientific life of ESO.

Reports to:

Head of the Observing Programme Office

Key Competences and Experience:

Essential Competences and Experience

  • Active research programme and a robust publication record;
  • Minimum one postdoc in a scientific research institute;
  • Early-career working experience in large, international scientific facilities;
  • Minimum two years of demonstrated user experience with the ESO workflow, telescopes and instrumentation;
  • Demonstrated experience with general Optical and NIR observing techniques;
  • Ability to effectively communicate with internal and external stakeholders as described;
  • Provide clear and concise written and verbal communications that identify key issues, examine options and propose ways forward; and
  • Build strong collaborative working relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds and countries.

Desirable Competences and Experience

  • Demonstrated experience with user support;
  • Early-career experience in modern observatory operations;
  • Demonstrated experience with peer-review processes;
  • Working experience with relational databases, SQL and Python scripting;
  • Demonstrated experience with Artificial Intelligence and its application to textual analysis;
  • Seek to understand the perspective of key decision makers and partners - think through their needs and interests to identify their personal motives and agenda;
  • Determine a course of action that makes logical sense and considers the overall impact of the decision; and
  • Foster an open environment within the team through sharing of information, learning and ideas.


PhD in Astronomy or equivalent.

Language skills:

Excellent command of the English language, both oral and written, 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.

ESO aims to support members of personnel in maintaining a good work-life balance ( between their professional and private life. ESO is also committed to offering family-friendly support (, creating a work environment and policies which allow staff to balance their professional and private responsibilities through flexible working arrangements and financial support for families.

The contract is for a fixed term duration of three years, and is subject to successful completion of the probation period. There may be 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 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:

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

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 30 September 2021.

Interviews are expected to start soon after this date.

ESO has established diversity as an important value of the Organisation, is committed to providing an equal opportunities environment and is actively seeking to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce.

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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