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Job Title:
Astrophysicist (Technical Assistant) IS 1330, Grade 9; $64,251 - $83,523 per year
Type of Position:
Temporary - Trust Fund, Temporary not to exceed one year with a possibility of extension for an additional two years.
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

This position is open to all qualified candidates. First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening date.

Summary: This is the position of Astrophysicist (Technical Assistant) at the developmental trainee level in the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, providing technical support for science planning and operations in the TESS Science Office (TSO) at SAO. The primary purpose of the position is to contribute to the confirmation and characterization of transiting planet candidates identified by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).


  1. Participate in coordinating observations by TFOP Sub Group 1 (seeing limited light curve follow-up). This will involve a review of new photometric observations daily as they are uploaded to ExoFOP and recommending any changes needed to the observing priorities and planet candidate It may also involve regular scheduling and review of observations from the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) and other SAO-affiliated observatories. It will also involve searches of ExoFOP, the SG1 tracking spreadsheet, and the literature for previous follow-up light curve results.
  2. Participate in the data reduction of LCO photometric observations. This will involve the analysis of LCO images to extract precise time-series differential photometric data using software tools such as AstroImageJ, uploading results to ExoFOP, and submitting them to the TFOP SG1 team.
  3. Participate in maintaining the TFOP SG1 TOI List Google spreadsheet. This will involve updating dispositions, observing priorities, and TOI parameters on the SG1 TOI list. These updates will be from the joint analysis of available TESS data validation reports, TESS FFI data, and TFOP SG1 follow-up light It will also involve updating the SG1 TOI List with new TOI releases.
  4. Support publication of the TFOP SG1 results. This will involve a joint assessment of all available SG1 data for potential inclusion in the joint modeling of the planetary system, communicating with lead and other key authors, and writing the supporting SG1 observations descriptions using LaTeX (typically on Overleaf).
  5. Write, modify, test, maintain, and document software as needed to support the above duties. Identify needs for improved procedures and software and participate in implementation and Modify existing codes in response to approved needs. Write well-organized and maintainable new code as required to support the above duties. Document code and any modifications.
  6. Perform other related duties as assigned.


Basic Requirements:

A. Degree: in one or a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science, or electronics. The course work must have included differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy and/or physics.


B. Combination of education and experience -- at least 30 semester hours of courses equivalent to a major in any combination of astronomy, space science, physics, mathematics, and electronics, with required course work as shown in A above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

In addition to the basic requirements, candidates for grade 09 must also possess one of the following:

2 years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to a master's degree or master's or equivalent graduate degree


1 year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the GS-07 level in the normal line of progression for this occupation.  Specialized experience is an experience that has equipped the applicant with the particular competencies/knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position such as experience with photometric transit observing, data reduction, interpretation of the results, and writing up the results using LaTeX for professional scientific journals. Skills should also include competency in Google Sheets programming, Overleaf, and coding in python. Experience with Java is a plus.


Combination of successfully completed graduate level education and experience equivalent to the above.

Qualification requirements are derived from the Office of Personnel Management's Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at Qualification requirements must be met within 30 days after the closing date of the announcement.

Application Procedures:  We are only accepting online applications for this position. To apply please visit USAJOBS

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccination requirements and its impact on your application, click on Smithsonian Institution’s Frequently Asked Questions.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.


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