Category Archives: General

For posts about the blog process or random questions.

HET still operating, partially remotely

In response to COVID-19, the HET operations team has been rapidly developing our remote observing capabilities. At present, the night observations are staffed by one telescope operator on site and a remotely-connected resident astronomer (staying at home). Our afternoon operations shift is also being staffed remotely (one remote TO and one remote RA), requiring about 20-30 minutes of assistance from one member of day staff on site for our routine safety checks. Some day time staff are able to work partially or fully remotely from home, but most are still coming in daily as their duties cannot be done over a remote connection. Extra attention is being paid to hygiene, cleanliness, and staff presence each day. To further minimize risk, we have temporarily suspended our schedule of primary mirror segment swaps, as that process requires two members of the mirror team working in very close proximity with each other. We are benefiting from a lot of “can-do” attitudes here and receiving extensive help from our software team to get remote access and learning a lot in this process! After this is all over, I expect we’ll see long-term benefits from the things we have learned throughout this interesting time.

Open position: Resident Astronomer

This advertisement was posted on February 17th 2020, and applications received by March 31st will be fully considered.


The University of Texas at Austin, McDonald Observatory invites applications for a Resident Astronomer for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) in the beautiful Davis Mountains of west Texas. The HET is a fully queue scheduled 10-m class optical and near-IR spectroscopic telescope located 6,600 feet above sea level. The observing queue is run by the team of Resident Astronomers who serve as on-site observing specialists, generally each working about 7-10 nights per month. Currently the facility instruments include the Visible Integral-field Replicable Unit Spectrograph (VIRUS), the Low-Resolution Spectrograph 2 (LRS2), and the Habitable-zone Planet Finder Spectrograph (HPF). All together, this powerful suite of spectroscopic instruments on one of the world’s largest optical telescopes enables a diverse range of research possibilities.

The Resident Astronomer position includes up to 25% time for personal research and funds to support research (computing, travel, publications, etc).


Key responsibilities of the position include:

  • Leading nightly science observations safely and efficiently from sunset to sunrise.
  • Working with the HET partner scientists to verify the integrity and quality of the observations and help optimize the scientific productivity of the facility.
  • Working with instrument scientists and engineering staff to maintain and document the performance of the HET and its instruments.
  • Documenting the current status of science operations through wikis and web pages.
  • Conducting projects to characterize and/or improve science operations.
  • Up to 25% of the work hours are available to conduct personal research and to contribute to the scientific life at the observatory.


The full job advertisement is available on the AAS job register:


and the application is available on the UT workday website:—Hobby-Eberly-Telescope_R_00008175

Exciting new results from HPF

HPF’s first new astronomy result is now published!  The team has validated their first planet, G 9-40b.

The article in the Astronomical Journal is available here:

And here is a freely-available version of the paper on the arXiv pre-print server:

Press releases on this from PSU, UT are at:

For a more publicly-accessible description, see the HPF team’s blog:

Short term DIMM outage

As of Wednesday Feb 12th, the DIMM (Differential Image Motion Monitor) telescope is temporarily out of commission due to a technical problem. We usually run this telescope (mounted a few hundred feet from the HET on a platform to monitor native site seeing) while observing and provide the DIMM image quality (seeing) measurement to PIs with their observations. However these measurements will be temporarily unavailable while we are fixing the issue.

Internet outages recently, getting back to normal now

Currently (Wednesday January 29th, 2020), things appear to be normal again, but we’ve been experiencing issues with internet/network connectivity over the past few days.   In the early morning hours of Sunday January 26th (around 5am) we lost all network/internet access on site.  Some access was restored that evening around 9:45pm, but connections were spotty, inconsistent, and some functions were not working.  This affected our real-time data transfers from HET to TACC and has prevented some users from editing their observing programs. All of this functionality appear to have been restored at this time, but if you have any issues please get in touch with us to help.

New Position: July 25, 2018 – Opto-mechanical technician

*** As of November 26th, 2018, this position has been filled ***

McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas at Austin, has an opening for an opto-mechanical technician at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET); a state-of-the-art optical telescope facility located in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, 16 miles from Ft. Davis, Texas (440 miles west of UT Austin campus). This position is responsible for maintaining the many optical systems throughout the facility with the principal focus on the large (10 meter), multi-segmented (91 mirrors), primary mirror. Maintaining the primary mirror involves removing and installing individual segments (swapping) as well as sustaining the critical peripheral systems required to support this array. The critical support systems include 1) the Segment Alignment and Maintenance System (SAMS), a sensor system that measures the figure of the primary mirror 2) the Segment Control System (SCS), a motor driven positioning system for each of the individual mirror segments and 3) the mirror frame, a mechanical system designed to hold each segment in place. Other work includes supporting the mirror coating process and thorough record keeping to document the work performed and the state of the various subsystems.

Required qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in science or engineering, or a related field; equivalent combination of relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate. Preferred qualifications: Two years experience working with optical systems and/or a laboratory environment. Math skill set including linear algebra and calculus. Computer skill set including programming fundamentals, MATLAB, LabView. Ability and/or experience with directing and/or managing projects. Ability to do basic troubleshooting on both electrical and mechanical systems. In addition, candidates should have the work ethic and drive to maximize the scientific output of the telescope.

Visit for a complete job description and to apply for job posting number 18-07-20-01-4216. For more information about the telescope and McDonald Observatory visit Security sensitive position; conviction verification on applicant will be conducted. UT Austin is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer committed to diversity.

New Telescope operator positions open at the HET

*** As of November 26th, 2018, both Telescope Operator positions have been filled ***

We have two new openings at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope for telescope operators. One of our operators has moved on to be a technical manager for the new earth observatory being built by NASA at McDonald Observatory and the other is going to also work for NASA as a telescope operator on the Sofia flying observatory. While sad to see friends moving on it is great to know that we are hiring and training the best people! Maybe you know someone who might be our next telescope operator!? The add is below:

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at the University of Texas at Austin, a state-of-the-art optical telescope facility located in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, has an opening for a Telescope Operator (TO). The TO is responsible for the operation of the telescope, dome and instruments for night-time observations while working with the Resident Astronomer to acquire data. The TO maintains the records and logbooks detailing the activities during the observing period. Local weather and facility conditions are monitored to insure adequate and safe observing conditions. Some day time responsibilities include: assisting the day staff in the resolution of technical problems and preparing the facility for night time operations.

Required qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in astronomy, computer science, engineering, or a related field; equivalent combination of relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate. Preferred qualifications: Completion of advanced courses leading towards a master’s degree in a STEM field and/or one or more years experience with operation of a 1+m telescope, understanding of observational astronomical terminology, experience with developing and adapting to changes in complex procedures for repetitive tasks, experience with quickly trouble shooting, documenting and working through faults in complex hardware and software systems, and experience working in a Linux or Unix environment through both command-line interfaces and GUIs. In addition, candidates should have the work ethic and drive to maximize the scientific output of the telescope. The work schedule will be determined with the Supervisor and will include nights and weekends.

For more information about the telescope and the McDonald Observatory visit To view a complete job description, salary, benefits and application instructions visit and refer to job posting number: 18-07-06-01-4216. This position is security sensitive and therefore the offer is contingent upon successfully passing a criminal conviction background check. The University of Texas, as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action.