SALT Astronomer (pipeline focus)

Job Summary

Category: Scientific / Technical Staff
Institution: South African Astronomical Observatory
Department: SALT Astronomy Operations
Number of Positions Available: 1
Duration: 3 Years
Could the duration be extended?: Yes
Work Arrangement: In-Person
In-Person Location(s): Cape Town, South Africa

Job Description

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 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, the 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. The 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, is seeking qualified candidates for the position of SALT Astronomer with a pipeline focus.

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

Main Purpose of Job:

  • Develop, maintain and update the full SALT Data Reduction Pipeline all the way to science-ready data products for all SALT instrumentation.
  • Develop, maintain and update essential quick-look and data processing software tools.

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:

  • Ensure the data reduction pipelines are operating correctly, to provide user data reduction support and to upgrade and/or develop new software tools, as needed.
  • Conduct service observing about 3-4 weeks per year on the queue-scheduled SALT.
  • Conduct 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.

Key Requirements:


  • PhD in Astronomy or related field


  • 3 years of post-doctoral observational and research experience in optical or IR observational astronomy and relevant data reduction packages.
  • 5 years of experience in scientific software development following standard practices. This could be concurrent with the PhD.


  • Proficiency in Python.
  • Ability to carry out own astronomical research.

Additional Notes:


  • Instrumental and/or software development experience, such as data reduction pipelines or web-based software, would be a strong advantage.
  • Experience in optical and/or NIR spectroscopy with fibers or IFUs would be an advantage. However, applicants with other observational backgrounds relevant to SALT will also be considered.
  • Proficiency in some of the following programming languages:
    • MySQL
    • LabVIEW
    • Java
    • Javascript
  • Software project management experience.
  • Interest in PR and outreach, using social media or otherwise, is also an asset.


The websites and provides more details on SALT and on the NRF initiatives and activities, respectively.

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

Application Details

Application Instructions
Applicants should submit a cover letter indicating the applicant’s suitability for the position, a brief statement of a research plan and a copy of their CV by logging to and applying online.
The names and contact details of at least three referees should be provided.
Link to Online Application:
Publication Start Date: 2024 Jun 03
Application Deadline: 2024 Jun 28


Name: Dr Encarni Romero Colmenero