Astronomer/Instrument Project Scientist

ESO - European Southern Observatory - Chile

Astronomer/Instrument Project Scientist

ESO - European Southern Observatory

Garching, Germany

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.

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 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 successful applicant will be assigned to follow one or more instruments at any given time.

Applicants with relevant experience in instrumentation at optical/IR wavelengths and using any technique (e.g. spectroscopy/imaging/mos/ifu/high/low-resolution) are encouraged to apply. Preference may be given to highly experienced applicants and/or to those with a background in the development and use of adaptive optics facilities and the associated instrumentation.

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;
  • Works closely with the ESO Project Managers, Project Engineers 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: prepares for the science operation during design, manufacturing/assembly/integration and 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;
  • As a member of the ESO Astronomy Faculty is expected and encouraged to conduct an original personal research programme and to participate actively in the scientific life of ESO.

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:

  • Experience in instrument development covering at least one of its phases, i.e. science cases development, initial design, final design, acceptance tests, or final commissioning;
  • Significant involvement in one or several relevant instrument phases (construction, design, or operation of instrumentation at optical/IR wavelengths) and using any technique;
  • Experience with the planning, execution, analysis and publication of scientific research arising from said instrumentation;
  • Active research programme;
  • Excellent writing and communication skills;
  • Good publication record;
  • Understanding of the science requirements on instruments and strategies for their realisation;
  • Cooperative team player;
  • Good cross-disciplinary communication skills;
  • Ability to work in a clear and structured manner producing meaningful reports to supervisors and presentations to governing bodies;
  • Ability to effectively communicate at all levels within the organisation and with the community;
  • Provides clear, concise and timely oral and written communications, identifying the key issues, examining options and proposing a way forward.

Desirable Competences and Experience:

  • Ability to provide scientific and strategic vision and leadership to geographically dispersed multicultural/multi-disciplinary teams within a cost constrained programme;
  • Broader experience following instrument development over most if not all phases from initial design to final commissioning;
  • Proficiency in relevant data reduction methods and tools;
  • Ability to negotiate with external scientists and instrument builders to achieve ESO's goals;
  • Ability to motivate and inspire others; strong influencing skills.


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, and is 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 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.

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 ESO sites in Chile as required
Career Path:


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 CV containing a publication list with 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 31 August 2020.

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, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Chile irrespective of gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, race or religion.

Don't forget to mention EuroScienceJobs when applying.

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EuroJobsites is a registered company number: 4694396 VAT number: GB 880 9055 04

Registered address: EuroJobsites Ltd, Unit 8, Kingsmill Business Park, Kingston Upon Thames, London, KT1 3GZ, United Kingdom

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