Advert. no. 2022_0001
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, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky" and whose operations will be fully integrated into Paranal Observatory.


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

Operations Staff Astronomer / Instrument Scientist


Vacancy closed on 13/03/2022

Deadline 13/03/2022

Paranal Science Operations (PSO) astronomers play a key role in optimizing the scientific return of the world leading astronomical facility.

PSO is responsible for the efficient execution of the scheduled observations, and in providing the highest quality data to our users in the worldwide astronomical community. The department is also charged to maintain and where possible improve the scientific and operational performance of the VLT(I)'s astronomical instruments. Astronomers in the department chair the Instrument Operation Teams (IOTs). PSO is strongly involved in the preparations for the full integration of the ELT into Paranal, in the context of the Integrated Operations Programme (IOP).

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to gain and provide expert knowledge on novel instrumentation and become closely involved in operations development towards the ELT. They will be given the overall responsibility for an instrument at the Very Large Telescope or future ELT. Flexibility exists 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, providing quality assurance and quality control of the scientific data obtained, 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.

  • Support the operational development of Paranal towards an integrated VLT-ELT observatory, in the context of the Integrated Operations Programme (IOP).

The successful candidate will be part of ESO's astronomy faculty and be appointed at the level of Assistant or Associate Astronomer.

They will be expected and encouraged to carry out a sustainable scientific research program that enables them to

  • Interact at peer level with the user community, including instrument consortia and high profile researchers
  • Understand and drive instrument performance from a scientific point of view

Functional duties are carried out for the equivalent of up to 105 nights per year at the Observatory, in either day-, night- or mixed shifts on site. Functional work pursued off-site (e.g. 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. Assessment of overall performance includes both functional duties and personal research.

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.


We seek a staff astronomer with instrument scientist skills, with excellent observing and/or operational experience in areas relevant to VLT(-I) and ELT instrumentation, with at least 3 years after the PhD. Demonstrated participation to commissioning and/or development of new instruments will be an asset.

Key Competences:


  • Strong background in state-of-the-art observing techniques available at Paranal. Such techniques include interferometry and extreme adaptive optics, high resolution and multi-object spectroscopy, time-resolved photometry, etc. in the optical and near-to-mid infrared wavelength regions.
  • A keen interest in quality control of astronomical data
  • Excellent observation-oriented research records and a sustainable future research program, that enables them to interact at peer level with the user community, and drive instrument performance from a scientific point of view.
  • Deeply familiar with data analysis. Conversant with at least one major data reduction environment (e.g. ESO Reflex, IRAF, IDL)
  • Good working knowledge of python.


  • Proven ability to identify technical issues and potential risks, and experience with real-time troubleshooting.
  • Demonstrated participation to development and/or commissioning in instrumental areas relevant for the VLT-ELT.

Very good self-organization and time management is a must, coupled with the ability to prioritize multiple tasks. Communication and interpersonal skills 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, 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. 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 contractual conditions.

For any further information, please visit

Duty Station:

Paranal (130 km near 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, a research statement and a CV (with list of publications). The position also requires three letters of reference.

Closing date for applications is March 13, 2022.

Interviews are expected to start soon after this date.

The post is equally open to suitably qualified female and male applicants.

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, ethnicity or religion.

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