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Job Title:
Astronomer, IS-1330, Grade13; $95,648 - $124,340 annually
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-Federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Amado, Arizona
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:   All qualified candidates eligible to work in the United States.


This is the position of Astronomer, Optical Telescope Data Center (OTDC) Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO), Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division (OIR), Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).  The purpose of the position is to facilitate and participate in the scientific investigations carried out using the 1.5-Meter Tillinghast, 1.3m, 1.2m, and other FLWO telescopes located on Mt. Hopkins in Amado, AZ.


  1. Serves as the scientific lead and manages the day-to-day science operations of the FLWO 1.5m, 1.3m, and 1.2m telescopes and associated instrumentation. This includes the following:
  • Establishes and implements a plan for preventive maintenance for the telescopes and instruments, including a regular schedule for re-aluminization of the telescope mirrors. Develops and executes plans and procedures for the safe handling of mirrors and instrumentation. Oversees annual summer shutdown and corresponding fall start-up of the facilities.
  • Ensures the scientific productivity of the telescopes by communicating regularly with CfA scientists to identify users’ needs.  Sets observing and instrument schedules for the 1.5m telescope and leads the instrument change operations.   Coordinates with the CfA Time Allocation Committee to ensure research programs’ resource requirements are satisfied.
  • Establishes and maintains a schedule of engineering runs on all telescopes to optimize operations and perform analyses such as wave front sensing. Regularly monitors the quality and quantity of telescope data and reports on image quality and lost time.
  • Maintains a safe work environment. Cooperates closely with the FLWO Safety Officer to ensure all safety policies and procedures are observed.
  • Participates in the testing, repair, development and upgrades of the telescopes and associated systems.
  • Conducts scientific observations, as needed.
  • Serves as Deputy to the FLWO Site Director.
  1. Supervises technical staff including telescope observers, electronics technician, and IT specialist. Ensures competitive recruitment, training, and employee development. Prepares timely and effective performance reviews, appropriately acknowledging exceptional performance, and addressing performance deficiencies. Assigns projects and tasks; approves work schedules, leave, and overtime; gives advice, counsel, or instruction to staff on both technical and administrative matters; and resolves conflicts and takes disciplinary action when required.
  2. Identifies and implements improvements to the operational efficiency of FLWO telescopes, including developing creative approaches to adapting or updating older equipment or instrumentation in order to enhance scientific productivity. Keeps abreast of technology developments that may impact observatory operations. Advises the FLWO Site Director of technical, scientific and safety ramifications of changes in the technical aspects of the facility, and of changes in schedule.
  3. Serves as a scientific representative to external organizations and plays a leading role in site protection activities such as dark sky preservation. Supports the FLWO Public Information Officer in public outreach activities and educational programs.
  4. Establishes and maintains professional relationships with other area Observatories in order to keep abreast of trends in the operation of small telescopes and coordinate site protection efforts. Makes periodic trips to SAO headquarters in Cambridge MA to maintain cognizance of the needs of the user community and to engage in strategic planning for improved or new instrumentation. Leads the development of new scientific instrumentation / infrastructure at FLWO.
  5. Formulates and conducts a program of independent astronomical research using telescopes of the SAO, Center for Astrophysics, and other facilities as needed. Maintains knowledge of current results and techniques in optical astronomy. Publishes papers in astronomical journals and conference proceedings. Participates in technical meetings and conferences to present research results and discuss current work with other scientists.


All applicants must meet these Basic Requirements:

Degree in one or a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science, or electronics. The course work must have included differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy and/or physics.


Combination of education and experience -- at least 30 semester hours of courses equivalent to a major in any combination of astronomy, space science, physics, mathematics, and electronics, with required course work as shown in A above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

In addition to Basic Requirements above, you must have one year of specialized experience (Federal or other) that is equivalent to at least the GS-12 grade level in the Federal government performing the following duties: Operating a meter class telescope at a research or university observatory, coordinating/directing the work of others, and participating in a research project in astronomy or astrophysics. Specialized experience for this position would typically include activities such as participating in the management of the operation of meter class telescopes and associated instruments, operating a telescope at a world class or university observatory, leading independent astronomical or astrophysics research, and publishing papers in astronomical journals and conference proceedings.

PART-TIME OR UNPAID EXPERIENCE: Credit will be given for appropriate unpaid work on the same basis as for paid experience. Part-time experience will be credited on the basis of time actually spent in appropriate activities. To receive credit for such experience you must indicate clearly the nature of the duties and responsibilities in each position held and the average number of hours per week spent in such employment.

SUBSTITUTION OF EDUCATION FOR SPECIALIZED EXPERIENCE One full year of graduate level education in astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science, or electronics or A Bachelor's degree with a major in any combination of astronomy, space science, physics, mathematics, and electronics with Superior Academic Achievement.

COMBINATION OF GRADUATE EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE If you have less than the full amount of graduate education and less than the amount of experience described, but have a combination of the type of graduate education and the type of experience described, you may meet the minimum requirements for the position. The total percentage of education and experience must equal at least 100 percent to qualify under this provision.

ARE YOU USING YOUR EDUCATION TO QUALIFY? You MUST provide transcripts or other documentation to support your educational claims. Unless otherwise stated: (1) unofficial transcripts are acceptable, or (2) you may submit a list with all of your courses, grades, semester, year, and credit for the course. All materials must be submitted by the closing date of the announcement. Failure to provide your college transcripts or a list of completed college courses will result in you not receiving consideration for this position, and you will receive an ineligible rating.

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR FOREIGN EDUCATION: Education completed in foreign colleges or universities may be used to meet the above requirements. You must show proof that the education credentials have been submitted to a private organization that specializes in interpretation of foreign educational credentials and that such education has been deemed to be at least equivalent to that gained in conventional U.S. education programs; or an accredited U.S. state university reports the other institution as one whose transcript is given full value, or full value is given in subject areas applicable to the curricula at the state university. It is your responsibility to provide such evidence when applying. 

NOTE: The Smithsonian does not recognize academic degrees from schools that are not accredited by an accredited institution recognized by the Department of Education. Any applicant falsely claiming an academic degree from an accredited school will be subject to actions ranging from disqualification from Federal employment to removal from Federal service.

COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

To ensure compliance with an applicable nationwide preliminary injunction, which may be supplemented, modified, or vacated, depending on the course of ongoing litigation, the Federal Government will take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14043 on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. Therefore, to the extent a Federal job announcement includes the requirement that applicants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 pursuant to Executive Order 14043, that requirement does not currently apply. Federal agencies may request information regarding the vaccination status of selected applicants for the purposes of implementing other workplace safety protocols, such as protocols related to masking, physical distancing, testing, travel, and quarantine.

Application Procedures:  We are only accepting online applications for this position. To apply please visit USAJOBS

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

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