You probably won't get up to the observatories much, but rather spend a lot of your time in an office in Santiago or La Serena. Many countries use these observatories, and your job is vital as you coordinate operations, get funding and handle problems. In short, the place isn't going to run without you. This is the headquarters for both the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Santiago.
Sorry, professional astronomers don't look through eyepieces anymore. They setup their research, apply for time on the telescope, and then take the data and draw conclusions. In some observatories this is done remotely and your data is waiting for you the next day on your computer. In other cases the astronomer can physically be in a warm room at the observatory monitoring the progress of their nights work. This is Chris Smith, Astronomer and Administrator for CTIO who is working on a supernova and a dark energy project with the Blanco 4 m telescope.
Someone with a Library Science degree could do well at an observatory with documentation. Records are needed for everything that goes on at the observatory, and they need to be carefully stored and filed for quick access. Rodriquo can do all of this while balancing an orange on his head (I believe that part of the job is optional).
EDUCATION PUBLIC OUTREACH
That's EPO for short and if you like to write, draw, create websites, design activities, teacher training, or work with the public, this would be for you! Their job is to let everyone know about all of the amazing things that are happening at these facilities in a way the public can understand.
|Sergio Cabezon Valeria Foncea|
|Juan Seguel Charles Blue|
Somebody has to design and test the equipment used at the observatory, and we are talking about some amazing high tech stuff! While we were there they were testing a 49 megapixel camera they made for the telescope; there are only five of them in the world.
Like working with your hands? Machinists are needed for making precision components that could be used in a new camera, or the actuators (the pistons) that move the telescope mirror to eliminate the effects of atmospheric turbulence. The machinist at CTIO is holding an eyepiece they made for the White House Star Party.
If you know what a "ray tracing" is (and get excited by it) then this job is for you. You may not be making eyepieces (unless there is a white house star party going on), but your optic skills are needed for various instruments that connect to the telescope and for the telescope optics itself. Our young optician is interning at CTIO.
Are you good with computers and writing programs? People are needed for software development, script writing, and data reduction at observatories. This is Tzu-Chiang Shen who is the Software Group Manager for ALMA. When an astronomer requests time on ALMA, it's Shen's team that writes the software to make certain that the project runs properly from the schedule.
These are the people who control the telescope. You know that instrument inside and out and make certain that it does everything that the astronomer wants it do. Sometimes you work side by side with the astronomer in a warm room monitoring a computer. Sometimes you go out on the observatory floor and check the system before the night starts and move it by "hand". You open the dome and you close it too. Sometimes early if the wind speed is too high (40 mph is the cutoff). At that point not even the Observatory Director can override your decision to protect the telescope.