Planetary Astronomer and Archivist

Position Title: Planetary Astronomer and Archivist
Job status: Full Time
Location: Mountain View, CA, US
Salary Range: $85,000 to $135,000


Position Summary:

The SETI Institute is seeking a Planetary Astronomer and Archivist to support the work of the Ring-Moon Systems Node (RMS) of NASA’s Planetary Data System (PDS). The PDS ensures that the entire community of planetary scientists has seamless access to NASA’s archive of planetary data. The RMS Node’s primary focus is on data sets relevant to planetary systems in the outer solar system.

At the baseline level, the astronomer will focus primarily on facilitating the delivery of new data into the PDS archive, as well as helping to design and maintain the information infrastructure used to facilitate data archiving. The astronomer will also collaborate closely with the Node Manager, Dr Matt Tiscareno, on overseeing all aspects of RMS Node planning and task management and external relations. 

At the full-time level, the astronomer may additionally work on projects to enhance the scientific usability of RMS data sets, which include those from the Cassini, Voyager, Galileo, and New Horizons missions. 

We seek a curious and creative individual who is eager to work with data from diverse instruments and missions, and who is inspired by work that enables the entire community to do quality scientific research. 

 We expect the successful applicant to be employed full-time by the SETI Institute, with two possible modes: 

  • Baseline Level: If the astronomer brings ongoing research funding with them, then they may dedicate no less than half their working time to PDS work and focus only the Baseline Responsibilities listed below, while focusing on their own research for the remainder of their time. 
  • Full-time Level: Alternatively, the astronomer may additionally focus on the Optional Additional Responsibilities listed below while dedicating up to 100% of their time to PDS work. 

A higher FTE salary will be available for the Baseline scenario than in the Full-time scenario. In either case, the astronomer will be encouraged to seek additional research funding on any topic of their choosing including, but not limited to, topics related to the Node’s extensive data holdings. The position offers substantial growth potential for applicants who are able to demonstrate mastery of the key requirements.

 Baseline Responsibilities (if half-time PDS):

  • Work with NASA’s planetary missions and other data providers on the design, preparation, submission, and peer review of archived data sets.
  • Design and maintain PDS “dictionaries”, which are used to capture the key information about astronomical observations.
  • Work within the larger PDS community to develop and enhance archiving standards.
  • Represent the Node at PDS working groups, project meetings, scientific meetings, and to NASA.
  • Assist the Node Manager in overseeing all RMS Node operations.
  • Assist the Node Manager in strategic interactions and relations with people outside RMS Node, including people in other parts of PDS as well as people outside PDS.
  • Participate in team discussions about the latest results in planetary astronomy and related fields.

Optional Additional Responsibilities (if full-time PDS):

  • Develop data processing pipelines to validate existing data and metadata, and convert it into the new, modern “PDS4” standard.
  • Generate and assemble supporting metadata so the data products can be integrated into OPUS, our online search engine (see
  • Help with website content, hardware management, and research tool development.


  • A Ph.D. or equivalent career experience in planetary astronomy, astrophysics, physics, or a closely related field. 
  • Experience in scientific data analysis and in writing research papers for peer review. 
  • A personal and demonstrable scientific interest in planetary systems is highly desirable. Particularly welcome to apply are specialists in giant planet atmospheres and/or giant planet satellites and/or planetary rings.
  • Some experience with computer programming for scientific applications is required, and more so for the Optional Additional Responsibilities. Proficiency with the Python programming language is desirable.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Must be detail oriented, pro-active, and flexible. 
  • Should have the initiative to work independently and as a team player.
  • Ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment.
  • Willing to accept major responsibilities and able to meet multiple deadlines.
  • We do NOT require experience with information modeling or with XML. Although the position involves substantial work with these, we have found that anyone satisfying the other requirements listed here can learn what is needed while on the job. Nevertheless, experience with information modeling or with XML would be a plus.

Salary range for this position: $85,000 to $135,000

Diversity and Equity

All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.

The SETI Institute is an Affirmative Action Employer and members of underrepresented communities and demographics are particularly encouraged to apply, including women, people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities. 

Employment Details:
The successful applicant may start immediately, but should be prepared to establish residence within six to eight months of starting the job in the San Francisco Bay Area, within a comfortable commuting distance of Mountain View, California.

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