SALT Astronomer

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Archive Date: 
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
Small Academic
National Reserch Foundation - South African Astronomical Observatory
Department Name: 
SALT Astronomy Operations
Street Line 1: 
Observatory Road
Street Line 2: 
Cape Town
Western Cape
South Africa
Job Announcement Text: 


SALT Astronomer


The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), on behalf of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) Foundation (Pty) Ltd, is seeking qualified candidates for the position of SALT Astronomer.

The SAAO is the National Facility for Optical and Infrared Astronomy of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and it is the premier optical/infrared research facility on the African continent, with global research and outreach collaborations, contributing to SET human capital development for South Africa. Research focus areas include extragalactic astronomy, time domain astrophysics, planetary astronomy and instrumentation development. Its headquarters are in beautiful Cape Town with a Mediterranean climate, while its telescopes are at Sutherland in the semi-arid Northern Cape. Distributed between the two sites, SAAO employs about 130 people, many of them scientists and engineers, and is contracted to operate the 10-m Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), on behalf of the international SALT Foundation (Pty) Ltd.



The SALT Astronomers (SAs) are based in Cape Town and will be expected to regularly conduct service observing (about one week in six) on the queue-scheduled SALT. Other duties consist of preparing and scheduling of observations on behalf of the SALT users, liaising with SALT users, performing and managing pipeline data reductions, writing and developing software, and, depending on background, serving as an instrument scientist.  A generous amount of personal research time and resources, using SALT and other SAAO facilities, will also be available.  SALT astronomers work within the SAAO science staff structure. Student supervision and lecturing are also encouraged.

At this time, we are specifically looking for an astronomer with demonstrated experience and, ideally, scientific leadership in one of these fields:

  • Near Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy using fibres or Integral Field Units (IFUs), as SALT is expecting a near infrared spectrograph to arrive in late 2021.
  • Precision radial velocity astronomy, exoplanet work in particular, for which one of the main SALT instruments, the High Resolution Spectrograph (HRS), is suitable.
  • Instrumentation
  • Strong applicants with other observational backgrounds related to SALT will also be considered.


Minimum requirements:

  • PhD in Astronomy or related field.
  • 3 years or more of post-doctoral experience in optical and/or NIR observational astronomical research and relevant data reduction packages.
  • Optical and/or NIR observational experience.
  • Proven ability to carry out own astronomical research.


Desirable Work Experience

  • 3 years or more experience in precision radial velocity work, echelle spectroscopy and/or NIR spectroscopy with fibers or IFUs would be a strong advantage.
  • Instrumentation and/or software development experience, such as data reduction pipelines or web-based software, would be an advantage.
  • Proficiency in some of the following programming languages would be an advantage:
  • Python
  • MySQL
  • LabVIEW
  • Student supervision or lecturing experience.
  • Interest in PR and outreach, using social media or otherwise, is also an asset.


The position will be initially for a period of three years, with a possibility of an extension. The salary package will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The filling of this position will be in line with the NRF's Employment Equity Policy and Plan.

Applicants should send a cover letter, a brief statement of a research plan and a copy of their CV to the Head of SALT Astronomy Operations, Dr. Encarni Romero Colmenero ( and to the SAAO HR Manager, Linda Tobin (, and arrange for three letters of reference to be sent to both addresses. 

For further information please contact Dr. Romero Colmenero at the above address.

Applications should be submitted no later than 23 October 2020.

Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Selection Deadline: 
Monday, November 23, 2020
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Mrs. Linda Tobin
HR Manager
National Research Foundation - South African Astronomical Observatory
Street Line 1: 
P.O. Box 9
Street Line 2: 
Cape Town
Zip/Postal Code: 
South Africa
+27 21 4470025
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Dr. Encarni Romero Colmenero
SALT Astronomer Enquiry