Solar Observer – Associate Scientist II

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Published: December 15, 2019
MLSO, Hawaii
Job Type
Information Technology / Other / Scientific /
(Number of Job Posting Views: 8)

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~ Located in Boulder, Colorado, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is one of the world’s premier scientific institutions, with an internationally recognized staff and research program dedicated to advancing knowledge, providing community-based resources, and building human capacity in the atmospheric and related sciences. ~

NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). 

Position Overview

The Solar Observer - Associate Scientist II position is performed at the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory (MLSO) which is located on the Island of Hawaii, 45 miles from the city of Hilo. MLSO is located on an active volcano at the 11,250 foot level, at a remote site requiring a 3-hour commute (1.5 hours one-way) and special attentiveness to established safety procedures. MLSO operations require the ability to work irregular hours, between 5 AM and 6 PM, and a flexible schedule, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays with an average work week equaling 40 hours.

  • Job Title: Solar Observer - Associate Scientist II
  • Location: MLSO, Hawaii
  • Type: Full-time, Exempt
  • Application Deadline: This position will be posted until 1/17/20, or until this position is filled.
  • Relocation: Relocation assistance is available for this position.
  • Work Authorization: UCAR/NCAR will sponsor a work visa to fill this position.

Where You Will Work

The Mauna Loa Solar Observatory (MLSO) occupies part of the NOAA Mauna Loa research site located on the flank of Mauna Loa at an elevation of 3440 meters on the island of Hawaii. It is operated by the High Altitude Observatory (HAO), a division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is located in Boulder, Colorado.

The MLSO is tasked with monitoring the solar atmosphere and recording data on plasma and energetic emissions from the solar atmosphere. The observations are used to study solar activity and its impacts at Earth and to study long term changes on the Sun. A number of non-solar astronomical observatories are also located at the site.

What You Will Do

The  position is responsible for observing and collecting the highest quality scientific solar data through the operation, troubleshooting, repair and maintenance of instruments for scientific observations of the Sun at the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory. Responsible for operating, maintaining, and assisting in the development of electro-mechanical and optical instrumentation systems in support of solar research. Provides significant feedback on quality of real-time observations and proper operation of solar instruments.


  • Observes and collects solar data through the operation and maintenance of solar telescope systems and the observatory facilities. Closely monitors real-time data and adjusts instruments to ensure data quality and proper performance of instrument.
  • One of three Mauna Loa observers that manage day-to-day operations.
  • Works closely with other observers, HAO instrumentation group, and MLSO Manager in Boulder to identify and perform instrument and facility repairs and improvements to ensure data collection and quality of data.
  • Often recommends corrective measures. Troubleshoots and may update on-site scripting software.
  • Assists Mauna Loa and HAO staff in the design, fabrication, installation, and testing of electromechanical subsystems and optical scientific equipment and instrumentation.
  • Prepares and updates documentation associated with data operations to aid in assuring proper functioning and maintenance of instruments, and data quality and interpretation. May assist Mauna Loa staff in preparation of technical reports regarding the status and needs of instruments and the facility.
  • Occasionally provides tours of the facility to the general public and scientific groups visiting MLSO.
  • Documents day-to-day activities, data quality, sky conditions and other items in observer log to aid in data interpretation and assessing instrument performance, maintenance and development.
  • Analyzes real-time data for instrumental problems, adjustments, and repairs. Recommends corrective measures.

What You Need

Education and Years of Experience:

  • Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in a scientific or technical area relevant to the operation of a solar observatory.
  • Two or more years experience in operating, troubleshooting, repair and maintenance of scientific instrumentation and facilities.
  • Experience in cleaning sensitive optics strongly desired.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • Position requires high technical skills to keep the observatory operating properly. General knowledge of science data collection and instrumentation, assessing data quality and following detailed guidelines.
  • Basic knowledge of optics, general scientific methodology and terminology.
  • Advanced skills with and knowledge of electronics, optical and electromechanical systems.
  • Advanced skill in troubleshooting and repairing electromechanical instrumentation.
  • Knowledge and skill in using hand tools or machine tools.
  • Knowledge of computer and networked systems. Experience with LINUX and Windows.
  • Effective verbal and written communication skills.
  • Ability to work as a member of a team and communicate well with others.
  • Ability to work at high altitude (11,250 feet).
  • Ability to work 13 hour days.
  • Ability to lift 50 pounds.
  • Ability to perform certain tasks while on a ladder.
  • Ability to drive and work alone at a remote location on some workdays, possibly most workdays.
  • Ability to adapt to adverse weather while driving and working. Will have to adapt to low temperatures, high winds and rain, ice and snow irregularly. Roads especially can be dangerous to navigate unless the driver is observant and careful.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license and a driving record consistent with NCAR policy in order to operate GSA car.

Applicant Notes: Please note that while the position description details both minimum requirements as well as desired skills and experience, we want to remind applicants that you do not need to have all the desired skills and experience to be considered for this role. If you have the passion for the work along with experience in a related field, you are encouraged to apply. We can provide on-the-job training for the rest.

All newly hired employees are subject to pre-employment screening.
New and current employees hired, promoted, or who experience a job change or transfer into certain UCAR risk-based positions are subject to pre-employment screening and background checks.

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action employer that strives to develop and maintain a diverse workforce. UCAR is committed to providing equal opportunity for all employees and applicants for employment and does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, creed, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or pregnancy.

Whatever your intersection of identities, you are welcome at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). We are committed to inclusivity and promoting an equitable environment that values and respects the uniqueness of all members of our organization.

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