Young Graduate Trainee for Study of Exoplanets
EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY
Young Graduate Traineeship Opportunity in the Directorate of Science.
ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. Applications from women are encouraged.
Young Graduate Trainee for Study of Exoplanets
This post is classified F1.
ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands
The Scientific Support Office in the Directorate of Science provides project and study scientist support to all of ESA’s space science missions, including astronomy, fundamental physics, solar system, heliospheric and planetary ones. The staff scientists follow these missions from ‘cradle to grave’ and are responsible for ensuring the maximum scientific return is achieved within programmatic constraints. An important part of their remit is to work together with ESA colleagues to communicate the relevance of ESA’s science missions to the general public and young people. Staff in the Office, together with Research Fellows, carry out research in their relevant fields.
The STEM Education & Outreach Unit of the ESA Education Office targets primary and secondary school teachers and students (formal education) through activities aimed at supporting the teaching and learning of curricular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects. Activities include: teacher-training, classroom resources and hands-on school projects, all using space as an inspiring and interdisciplinary overarching theme.
The search for and study of exoplanets, i.e. planets orbiting stars other than Earth, is perhaps one the most exciting fields of research in modern science. The first detection of an exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star came over 25 years ago, the two scientists behind this being awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics for game-changing observations. Since the mid-1990s, a plethora of exoplanets have been identified that are larger, smaller, warmer or colder than the eight familiar planets in our Solar System, and in planetary systems with very different architectures. With the list of over 4000 known exoplanets growing almost daily, the challenge is on to learn more about this very diverse and also ubiquitous population.
CHEOPS, the CHaracterising Exoplanet Satellite, is a small-class mission in ESA’s Science Programme proceeding in partnership with Switzerland. It is the first mission dedicated to the search for transits of bright stars already known to host exoplanets. Its primary science goal is to study the structure of exoplanets smaller than Saturn, with periods of less than 50 days. It will measure sizes of exoplanets very accurately. And by combining these measurements with those of the planets’ masses, scientists will be able to make a first-step characterisation of large samples of small planets and determine their bulk density. This, together with information on the host planetary system, will help determine important new constraints regarding their structure, formation and evolution.
CHEOPS will use the technique of ultra-high precision, broadband transit photometry, monitoring small changes in the measured light from a star as a planet crosses, or transits, its disk. The transit depth is a measure of the ratio of the planet and star which, with knowledge of the star size, yields the planet radius. By targeting known planets, we know exactly when and where to point in order to catch the planet transit, and so can return at the time of transit to build up the high-precision signatures needed to study small, Earth to Neptune size planets.
Launching by the end of 2019, CHEOPS provides a topical and timely opportunity to engage school students in STEM subjects. During the one-year project, you as Trainee will work with members of the Scientific Support Office and the STEM Education & Outreach Unit of ESA’s Education Office to develop classroom resources using the theme of exoplanet science as a context, with a focus on CHEOPS, for teaching and engaging school students in STEM subjects. The main tasks:
- gaining familiarity with the history of exoplanet discovery, the common techniques used to find and study exoplanets, and past/present/future exoplanet space missions [~1 month].
- developing and packaging teaching resources based around an existing table-top model that is used at ESA Open Days to illustrate the technique of transit photometry; proposing the design of a cheap easy-to-procure version of the model for large-scale replication/use in the classroom; to include background material on exoplanets and classroom exercises based on the interpretation of data taken with the transit model; implementing the existing data logging concept on a Raspberry PI or Arduino platform [~4 months].
- developing a teaching resource based on early observations of exoplanets taken with CHEOPS, to include background material on exoplanets and classroom exercises centred on analysis and interpretation of CHEOPS data [~3 months].
- developing an ESA competition for schools to apply for observing time on CHEOPS to observe nearby exoplanets [~4 months].
In all cases resources will include links to past ground-based and space-based facilities used to discover and study exoplanets, as well as future ESA exoplanet/exoplanet-related missions.
You should have just completed, or be in the final year of a university course at Master’s level (or equivalent) in a technical or scientific discipline with a strong focus on physics (ideally astrophysics).
A demonstrated interest, and/or experience, and/or university qualification in STEM Didactics/STEM school education are considered to be significant assets, as is knowledge of programming applications for Arduinos and/or Raspberry PIs.
The working languages of the Agency are English and French. A good knowledge of one of these is required. Knowledge of another Member State language would be an asset.
You should demonstrate good interpersonal skills and the capacity to work both independently and as part of a team.
During the interview your motivation and overall professional perspective/career goals will also be explored.
For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework.
The closing date for applications is 15 December 2019.
If you require support with your application due to a disability, please email email@example.com.
Please note that applications are only considered from nationals of one of the following States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Nationals from Slovenia, as an Associate Member, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia as European Cooperating States (ECS).
Priority will first be given to candidates from under-represented Member States.
In accordance with the European Space Agency’s security procedures and as part of the selection process, successful candidates will be required to undergo basic screening before appointment