SALT Astronomer

Job Summary

Scientific / Technical Staff
South African Astronomical Observatory
SALT Astronomy Operations
Number of Positions Available
3 Years
Could the duration be extended?
Work Arrangement
In-Person Location(s)

Cape Town
South Africa

Job Description

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is the National Facility for Optical and Infrared Astronomy of the National Research Foundation (NRF). Its headquarters are in Cape Town, while its telescopes are at Sutherland in the semi-arid Northern Cape. Distributed between the two sites, SAAO employs roughly 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. SAAO is the premier optical/infrared research facility on the African continent, with global research and outreach collaborations and contributing human capacity development for South Africa. Research focus areas include extragalactic astronomy, time domain astrophysics, planetary astronomy and instrumentation development.

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 position will initially be for a period of three years, with the possibility of an extension.


Key responsibilities:

SALT Astronomers (SAs) are based in Cape Town and work within the SAAO science staff structure. The main responsibilities for this position will be:

  • conducting service observing (about one week in six) on the queue-scheduled SALT,
  • preparing and scheduling observations on behalf of the SALT users,
  • liaising with SALT users,
  • performing and managing pipeline data reductions,
  • writing and developing software to support SALT Astronomy Operations,
  • depending on background, serving as an instrument scientist for a SALT instrument or instrument mode, 
  • conducting their own research, for which personal research time and resources, using SALT and other SAAO facilities, will also be available on a competitive basis,
  • student supervision and/or lecturing are also strongly encouraged, as well as active participation in the scientific and functional life of the Observatory.


Minimum education requirements:

  • PhD in Astronomy or related field.


Minimum Work Experience

  • 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



  • 5 years post-doctoral observational and research experience
  • Experience in high precision radial velocity and/or exoplanet research
  • Experience with the use of IFUs and analysis and publication of such data
  • Instrumentation and/or software development experience, such as data reduction pipelines or web-based software
  • Proficiency in any of the following programming languages:
    • Python
    • MySQL
    • LabVIEW
    • Java
  • Student supervision and/or lecturing experience
  • Ability to work on their own and as part of a team
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English
  • Interest in PR and outreach, using social media or otherwise

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.

Compensation and Benefits


Application Details

Application Instructions
Applicants should send a cover letter, a brief statement of a research plan and a copy of their CV by registering and submitting their application on, and arrange for three letters of reference to be sent to Dr. Encarni Romero Colmenero ([email protected]) and SAAO HR Manager, Linda Tobin ([email protected]) .

Publication Start Date
2024 May 03
Application Deadline
2024 May 31


Mrs Linda Tobin