W. M. Keck Observatory
  • 10-Mar-2017 to 15-Sep-2017 (HST)

WMKO offers competitive benefits including relocation assistance and eligible dependent independent-school tuition assistance.

This position is open until filled


Under the general supervision of the Observing Support Manager, this position ensures observers are properly instructed in the use of the Observatory's facility instruments and the telescope. This includes pre- and post-observing inquiries, as well as afternoon and night-time support of observers in Waimea and/or at remote mainland sites. The Support Astronomer also maintains, calibrates, and develops scientific instrumentation and related software. This includes night-time engineering as well as interaction with engineers and technicians in maintaining, repairing, and improving the instruments. If assigned as an "Instrument Master," the Support Astronomer will have primary responsibility and will lead the care of that instrument (or capability). In addition, the Support Astronomer will participate as needed in the development of new instrumentation or capabilities (such as adaptive optics) and major upgrades to existing instrumentation.  The Support astronomer will contribute the development, maintenance, and support of data reduction packages.

Essential Functions

  • Team with other Support Astronomers and engineering staff in maintaining, operating, and improving observing instruments and associated tools and documentation to assure proper instrumentation support to meet the needs of observers.
  • Instruct visiting astronomers in the use and calibration of instruments and telescope to optimize their assigned observing time.
  • In the case of being allocated primary responsibility ("Instrument Mastership") for an instrument or capability, coordinate and lead the maintenance, calibration, documentation, and minor upgrades for that instrument/capability to ensure that it is ready and in good working order for users. 
  • Communicate with observers in advance of their runs to ensure their observing needs are understood.
  • Respond to post-observing comment forms to address observers' concerns and follow through on improvements to observing.
  • Deal appropriately with observers' post-observing inquiries regarding analysis of data to provide support to users.
  • When given responsibility for doing so, collaborate with the team building or upgrading an instrument or capability to maximize its effectiveness and compatibility with the observatory environment and to prepare for supporting it after delivery. Lead the commissioning of the instrument or capability, training of operations staff, and observer documentation.
  • When appropriate, instruct and provide technical direction to engineers, technical staff, and observing assistants to assure adequate support of instruments and observing capabilities.
  • Provide troubleshooting and problem-solving support for instruments during and after observing runs to return instruments and capabilities to proper working condition.
  • Perform astronomy-related research or other professional development to strengthen value to the Observatory.
  • When requested, participate in the technical review of observing proposals to assure WMKO can meet proposal observing needs.
  • Perform support and development of scientific data reduction packages.
  • Perform support and development of Keck Observatory Archive, KOA.
  • Additional Responsibilities
  • Perform other duties consistent with the scope of this position.
  • Drive WMKO vehicles as necessary to transport employees and observers to and from the summit in a safe manner.

Required Qualifications

  • Ph. D. or equivalent degree in astronomy, physics, or engineering; relevant experience may be substituted for a degree.
  • Interest and/or experience with scientific instrumentation.
  • Prior experience observing and/or working at an astronomical observatory.


  • Microsoft Office Proficiency.
  • Certificates and Licenses
  • Valid driver's license and clean abstract.


To perform the job successfully, an individual should demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Communication: Ability to communicate effectively and concisely at all levels.
  • Interpersonal skills: Ability to build collaborative, effective relationships with staff.
  • Professionalism: Approaches others in a tactful manner; reacts well under pressure; treats others with respect and consideration; accepts responsibility for own actions; follows through on commitments.

Other Requirements

  • Willingness to commit to WMKO core values: Safety, Integrity, Respect, Discovery and Service.
  • Willingness to commit to WMKO cultural values: Education/Learning, Communication, Teamwork, Rewarding Work Environment, Excellence, Community Involvement.
  • Willingness and ability to occasionally work nights and weekends.

Physical Demands

These physical demands are representative of the physical requirements necessary for an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of the job. This is not a complete list of the physical demands that may be required.

  • Sit: Remain in the seated position frequently.
  • Use hands and fingers: Pick, pinch, or otherwise working primarily with fingers rather than with the whole hand or arm as in handling.
  • Talk: Express or exchange ideas by means of the spoken word to impart oral information to clients or to the public and to convey detailed spoken instructions to other workers accurately, loudly, or quickly.
  • Lifting: Raise or lower an object from one level to another (includes upward pulling) up to 50 pounds.

Work Environment

This job operates in a professional office environment.  This role may use standard office equipment such as computers, telephones, photocopiers, filing cabinets and fax machines.

Environmental Conditions

These environmental conditions are representative of what an employee will encounter while performing the essential functions of the job. This is not a complete list of the environmental conditions that may be encountered.

  • Exposure to weather: Subject to extreme cold.  Temperatures can be below 32 degrees for periods of more than one hour.  Consideration should be given to the effect of other environmental conditions such as wind and humidity.
  • Subject to Hazards: Moving mechanical parts.
  • Subject to constrained spaces: Required to function in narrow aisles or passageways.


W. M. Keck Observatory
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