Advert. no. 2024_0017
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 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. 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 Systems Engineering Department, within the Directorate of Engineering at the Headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany, ESO is advertising the position of

Adaptive Optics Engineer / Physicist


Vacancy closed on 10/04/2024

Deadline 10/04/2024

The Systems Engineering Department is responsible for providing Systems Engineering expertise for the development of the future Extremely Large Telescope and its sub-systems. The Department is also responsible for the design and development of advanced optical and infrared instrumentation for the telescopes of ESO's La Silla-Paranal Observatory and for the ELT.

We are looking for a highly motivated Adaptive Optics Engineer / Physicist. As such, you are responsible for the development, integration and verification of astronomical adaptive optics instrumentation from the first concepts, to the final product delivered to and tested at the observatory. You are interested not only in new technical and managerial challenges, but also in developing your interpersonal skills within an international environment.

You work within the SAOSY group in Garching near Munich to support the development of the ELT and VLT instrumentation. In the area of Adaptive Optics, you follow the development of at least one instrument, including its prototyping activities, system testing, and support the consortium building it in their commissioning planning and activities. This includes being integrated in the instrument follow-up team, as well as a close contact with key AO-related groups, as for instance hard- or soft real-time computer, optics, or control.

You engage in a long-term activity in the field, until and after the installation of the ELT first light instruments.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

You are a specialist in adaptive optics with system engineering competences and depending on your expertise and interests, you are engaged in some of the following activities:

  • AO systems engineering of instruments, over the entire lifecycle: technical specifications, interface definitions, system modelling and analysis, technical coordination, verification & commissioning, and support to operation.
  • Follow-up the activities of consortia: communicating with external team members, fostering an effective relationship with consortia members, reviewing technical matters, collecting and sharing evolutions on the instrument and telescope developments to help maintain the performance of the final instrument. Provide the technical input for trade-offs, participate to and support technical decisions by the ESO follow-up team (project manager, systems engineer and project scientist).
  • Participate to the development of shared AO tools developed in Python or other languages and model the AO performance of wave-front sensors in classical configurations (LGS, SCAO, MCAO) and in novel arrangements or sensing techniques.

Reports to:

The Head of the Adaptive Optics Systems Group


You shall have at least 3 years of experience in

  • Designing, modelling, testing or operation of adaptive optics systems.
  • Working in multi-disciplinary and multi-national teams, or
  • Working with consortia of scientific institutes.
  • Knowledge of atmospheric optics is an asset, and some familiarity with an astronomical environment and the requirements specific to this field is desirable.

Key Competences:

  • Having to interact with external partners, you excel at building strong and effective links with other teams from different cultural backgrounds and disciplines, and be prepared to reach consensus without losing sight of the main goal of the project.
  • Ability to work autonomously or constructively within a team, monitor the progress of your own work.
  • Flexibility to changes of requirements and priorities as well as of assignments.
  • Capability to work for different projects and with different teams (matrix structure), also in parallel.
  • Ability to make decisions accounting for the technical nature of the problem as well as for time and budgetary constraints.


A university degree in engineering or physics with a minimum 3 years of experience (PhD level) in adaptive optics.

Language Skills:

ESO is an international organization where the official language is English. The position requires excellent oral and written communication skills in English.

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 and support to place your child/children in day care.

Our Salary Structure

ESO's salary structure is based upon a range of career paths which reflect the nature and level of our jobs. Each career path is made up of two or three grades which are used to further reflect experience.

Please follow this attached link for more details

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, in particular for the ELT Programme, 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 ESO sites in Chile. Frequent travel to scientific institutes within Europe and to the observatories in Chile will be necessary. Temporary transfer or / and long missions to Chile might be neede d.

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.

Applicants are invited to apply online at Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter and CV. Within your CV, please provide the names and contact details of three persons familiar with your work and willing to provide a recommendation letter upon request. Referees will not be contacted without your prior consent.

Closing date for applications is 10.04.2024.

Interviews are expected to start soon after this date.

ESO Values

An important element in any successful employment relationship is harmony in values between an organisation and its people.

The ESO Values are:

ESO strives for excellence through innovation.

ESO provides outstanding services to its communities.

ESO fosters diversity & inclusion.

ESO believes in the key role of sustainability for its future.

Achieving the above are recognized as only possible on the basis of personal values and attitudes that we expect from our employees: respect, integrity, accountability, commitment, collaboration, and clear & open communication.

Applicants to any ESO role are asked to reflect on their affinity with these values and advised they may be asked about them if called for interview.


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, equitable and inclusive workforce. Please visit for further details.


No nationality is in principle excluded from employment at ESO, however, recruitment preference will be given to nationals of our Member States, host states and strategic partners: 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.

Contact us