Fibre Lab Astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory

Contract Type: Long Term Contract

Job Level: Skilled/ Middle Management

Work Location: Cape Town

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), the National Facility for Optical and Infrared Astronomy of the National Research Foundation (NRF), is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Fibre Lab Astronomer.

Key responsibilities

  • Research and development of fibre technologies for astronomical instrumentation
  • Conducting personal research, using SALT and other SAAO facilities
  • All astronomers are based in Cape Town, with travel to Sutherland if and when required.
  • Student supervision will be strongly encouraged, as well as active participation in the scientific and functional life of the Observatory.

Key requirements


  • PhD in astronomy or related field


  • 2 years’ postdoctoral experience in astronomical instrumentation involving fibre-optics and fibre integral field units (IFUs).
  • Experience with multi-mode optical fibres, including termination, polishing and performance testing for focal-ratio degradation and throughput.
  • Experience with design of micro-lens arrays for coupling to fibre IFUs.
  • Experience with analysis of integral-field spectroscopic data.


  • Consult other scientists regarding innovations
  • Contribute to developing theories on the basis of observation and experiments
  • Use lasers, telescopes & other equipment
  • Use astronomical telescopes and instruments
  • Reduce and analyse astronomical data


  • Knowledge of Fibre-optics and fibre integral field units (IFUs)
  • Knowledge of spectrograph design.
  • Knowledge of detector controllers for CCD, CMOS and NIR devices (such as Teledyne HgCdTe arrays).
  • Knowledge of femto-pulse laser drilling, photo-lithographic techniques, and industrial capabilities thereof

Desirable additional education, work experience & personal qualities

  • Experience with Zemax
  • Experience with mechanical design of fine mechanics and components using CAD, preferably Siemens NX
  • Experience with photo-lithography for fabricating fibre-optic mounts in Silicon wafers.
  • Fine motor skills and attention to detail.
  • Process execution in gluing, polishing and assembly of small optical components using existing protocols (methods) and hardware.
  • Process development in gluing, polishing and assembly of small optical components, augmenting existing protocols (methods) and hardware.


Applicants should submit a comprehensive CV by logging to and apply online. Applications should be accompanied by a letter of motivation indicating the applicant’s suitability for the position.

The names and contact details of at least three referees should be provided.

Closing Date: 11 August 2022

The NRF offers a challenging career and competitive remuneration package which is commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The NRF is committed to employment equity and redress and the appointment to the position will be made in line with the NRF Employment Equity Plan.

The NRF reserves the right not to make an appointment.

Correspondence will be sent to short-listed candidates only.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) supports and promotes research and human capital development through funding, the provision of National Research Facilities and science outreach platforms and programmes to the broader community in all fields of science and technology, including natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. The website provides more details on the NRF initiatives and activities.

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 Northern Cape. Distributed between the two sites, SAAO employs roughly 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, and contributing to human capital development for South Africa.