South African Astronomical Observatory Postdoctoral Fellowships

Job Summary

Post-doctoral Positions and Fellowships
Southern African Large Telescope
Number of Positions Available
Work Arrangement

Job Description

South African Astronomical Observatory Postdoctoral Fellowships 

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is seeking qualified candidates for 3 postdoctoral fellowships in optical observational astronomy for a period of two years.

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 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 SALT (the Southern African Large Telescope) 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, contributing to human capital development for South Africa. The Sutherland site also hosts many guest facilities to which our astronomers have access to. More information may be found at  and   

These positions will be based in Cape Town, but may involve periods working at the observatory site in Sutherland.

Key Responsibilities: 
The fellows will be expected to spend 40% of their time working on their personal research, possibly in one of the existing research groups at SAAO which include extragalactic astronomy, time domain astrophysics, planetary astronomy and instrumentation development. During the remaining 60%, fellows will contribute to ongoing observatory projects. This project work may include the high stability mode for SALT’s high resolution spectrograph (HRS), the development of a new low-resolution spectrograph for transient follow-up, the African Intelligent Observatory program aimed at transient science, or other instrumentation and software development.

 Specific responsibilities may be tailored to match the interests of the successful applicant, but will include some of the following:

  • assisting with the development, acceptance tests, re-calibration, re-commissioning and performance verification of instruments both in the lab and on sky;
  • providing support to the SAAO and SALT Astronomy Operations team and the Community;
  • developing a process for data reduction;
  • preparing and completing relevant documentation;
  • ensuring knowledge transfer to the SAAO and SALT Astronomy Operations team within the timeframe of this position;
  • carrying out own astronomical research using SALT, the SAAO telescopes and/or other facilities 

Minimum requirements:

  • PhD in Astronomy or related field (formal requirements for a PhD passed at the time of appointment).
  • 3 years of experience in optical observational astronomical research and relevant data reduction packages or astronomical instrumentation development.
  • Proven ability to carry out own research.
  • Willingness to work in a team.
  • Proven aptitude to quickly understand complex systems and to communicate clearly and effectively.

Desirable Requirements

  • Research interests that overlap or complement those of SAAO astronomers 
  • Software development experience, such as data reduction pipelines or web-based software, would be an advantage.
  • Experience in astronomical instrumentation development is an asset.
  • Interest in public outreach, using social media or otherwise, is also an asset.

Applicants should send a cover letter and CV to the Head of Astronomy, Dr. Steve Potter ([email protected]) and to the SAAO HR Manager, Linda Tobin ([email protected]), and arrange for three letters of reference to be sent to both addresses.  

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

For further information, please contact Dr. Potter at the above address.

Applications should be submitted no later than 29 Feb. 2020


Application Details

Publication Start Date
2020 Feb 01
Application Deadline
2020 Feb 29


Dr Stephen Potter