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Job Title:
Astronomer, IS-1330, Grade 12; $93,175 - $121,128 per year
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:   This position is open to all qualified candidates.

Note: First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening date.


This is a career ladder position with promotion potential to grade 13.  If selection is made at the grade 12 level the selectee may be non-competitively promoted to the next higher level up to the grade 13 upon recommendation of the supervisor based on classification requirements, satisfactory performance, qualifications of the employee and recommendation of the Professional Accomplishments Evaluation Committee (PAEC).


This is the position of Astronomer in the Minor Planet Center (MPC), Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences Division, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), Cambridge, MA.

  1. Function as part of a team in the processing of orbital elements and related information received by the Minor Planet Center. This includes checking data for both reliability and relevance, consulting with the contributors when appropriate.
    2. Function as part of a team to use existing procedures for making more sophisticated identifications of newly reported objects with minor planets observed only very perfunctorily in the past, so that new objects can as a result be considered known and their orbits added to the main database.
    3. Independently contribute to team efforts to design and develop substantial modifications to current techniques for the determination of orbits from observations.
    4. Independently contribute to team efforts to discover and correct errors in the MPC’s orbital and observational databases.
    5. Independently contribute to team efforts to apply new procedures for determining the orbits of minor planets.
    6. Assist in the preparation of reports on activities by the Minor Planet Center and on related activities by the national and international community, as well as proposals that can lead to funding opportunities.
    7. Assist in the preparation of papers on such analyses and related topics for publication in scientific journals and presentation at scientific meetings.


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. OR

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 meeting the basic entry qualification requirements, applicants must have specialized experience and/or directly related education in the amounts shown below:

Grade 12

A. Ph.D. degree or equivalent doctoral degree


B. A minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least grade 11 in the normal line of progression for this occupation, which should demonstrate: experience in using orbit-fitting packages for the purpose of fitting orbits of moving solar system objects


C. A 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 

Additional information

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

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

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

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Learn more about SAO Human Resources

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