Contribute to ESO projects

In Chile, during the first three years of their contract, Fellows contribute to the operations at a level of 80 nights per year at the Observatory. In Garching, up to 25% of the time of a Fellow is spent on support or development activities in the area of instrumentation, operations support, archive/virtual observatory, VLTI, ALMA, ELT, public affairs, outreach or science operations at the Observatory in Chile.

Functional work carried out by current Fellows

Fellows provide not only a crucial support to the operations at the ESO Telescopes, such as:

  • Support Astronomer at Paranal
  • Support Astronomer at APEX
  • ALMA Commissioning and Science Verification
  • ALMA Astronomer on duty

but they also contribute to the activities carried out at the Garching Headquarter. For example:

  • VLT service mode operations: support the Instrument Science and Operation Team in assisting users of the VLT. 
  • VLT instruments: test and define software, reduction pipelines.
  • ALMA Regional Center: test the CASA software - reduction and quality assurance of ALMA data.
  • Observing Programme Office: development of new strategies for the future system of dealing with the observing proposals, including the way they are submitted, processed and handled internally.
  • E-ELT Science Office: developing the science case and updating accordingly the Top Level Requirements for the project.

This list is non-exhaustive, and only intended to give an idea of the diversity of functional works that you can carry out during the ESO Fellowship. Past ESO Fellows have engaged in activities such as: contributing to the  development of Public Surveys, working within our Outreach Department, helping with the commissioning of new instruments, contributing to the development of new software (pipelines, visualisation, testing observation tools, participating in the operational concept for adaptive optics, etc!

Being part of ESO projects is a unique experience for Fellows, thus we want to make sure that you will get the best out of it!

How current Fellows see their functional work at ESO?

I had the opportunity to work as astronomer on duty at ALMA. Since this telescope has no visitor mode, this is a unique opportunity to observe here. This was also a way to learn about the ground-based submillimeter interferometry after 5 years working on spatial single-dish data. Matthieu Bethermin

I chose the ESO fellowship for the observing duties and the unique opportunity it offers me to get involved directly with the instruments I am working with. It is naturally that I decided to work as an APEX observer, since I am often using the instruments of this antenna for my research. Being on site, seeing how this whole machinery works is an indescribable pleasure. It has given me an insight on how a telescope is run on a day-to-day basis and a lot of experience directly useful for my science. Maud Galametz

In the Archive Science Group I am working on the content validation of data obtained in the ESO public surveys. Those surveys produce a tremendous amount of excellent data accessible to the public and my duties give me the opportunity to support this effort. Stephan Geier


I am a support astronomer for the VLT; specifically I support the FORS2 and SPHERE instruments, and provide feedback and advice to ESO users on their observational programmes. As well as gaining in-depth experience in how a world-leading observatory is operated, it has also given me the opportunity to learn about new observational techniques that benefit my research. Neale Gibson

Working with the ALMA team has given me opportunities to contribute to ALMA software development projects.  I have worked with ALMA team members to make tools both for the broader community and for ALMA staff. The experience has given me a great deal of insight into how large projects are run. Adam Ginsburg


For my functional duty during my fellowship I was given the opportunity to assist the Instrument Scientist working on the upgrade project for the CRIRES instrument. As primarily an optical spectroscopist, this amazing experience provided me the unique chance to not only gain insight into instrument design and the challenges faced for these types of projects, but it also furthered my knowledge about infrared spectroscopy and the related ground-breaking science. The best aspect though was the education received through interaction with the talented team here at ESO and within the collaboration. Jason Grunhut

For me, the strongest incentive for becoming an Astrophysicist was the fun of travelling to remote places and spend entire nights observing the sky with very expensive binoculars. As a privileged Night Astronomer at Paranal, this is exactly what working at ESO allows me to do! Farid Rahoui

As an enthusiastic observer, the most enjoyable part is observing and looking at fresh data. At the European ALMA Regional Center, I enjoy serving as an Astronomer on Duty (AoD), contact scientist (CS), and data analyst for QA2, which means I visit the ALMA site in Chile regularly, communicate with ALMA users about updates of their observing program, reduce fresh ALMA data right after observations, and make data products deliverable to PIs. ALMA is a revolutionary telescope and I feel privileged to be part of the team making it work. Ke Wang

I usually use the X-ray, optical and near-infrared data for my analysis but had very lack of observing experience. My duties at Paranal has given be the opportunity to work at the world class telescope. This is not only a wonderful observing experience but also support my science. Tayyaba Zafar