Jobs & Volunteering


StarDate Cafe hourly shift-work

The Café is seeking part-time hourly staff. To inquire, call 432-426-3644.

HET Senior Software Engineer - McDonald Observatory

Job Description: To program, install, maintain, and support the operation of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at the McDonald Observatory with emphasis on the authoring and maintenance of software for the control of the telescope sub-systems. These efforts will be part of HET's continuing telescope development projects.

This position is for a senior software engineer at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), which operates on a 24/7 schedule. This position is located at McDonald Observatory, 16 miles from Ft. Davis, Texas, (440 miles west of the UT/Austin campus). Occasionally expected to respond to failures and business needs relating to the telescope outside of normal work hours (nights, weekends, and holidays). Residence in the Observatory's residential community may be available and may be required. Position may be subject to “call-back” as an essential employee for emergency or critical response. Must be eligible to work in the US on a full-time basis for any employer without sponsorship.


  • Serves as a software engineer in the development of new software products directly related to the operation and engineering of the telescope and instrument control systems at HET and includes the development of new test routines for existing robotic hardware. May work as the lead developer or as a member of a development team.
  • Maintains existing software already in production, providing for the rapid resolution of software bugs identified by operators and site staff, and continuously develops familiarity with over-all code base.
  • Participates as an active member of the project development teams; attends meetings and delivers status reports as necessary; and works directly with project scientists, engineers, and computing staff. Maintains consistent pre/post-incident communication with team members to ensure full problem resolution and project completion. Updates the contents of both internal and external documentation archives, notifies users/staff to software changes in production packages; and retains backup copies and version archives of software products.
  • Serves in a broad-spectrum backup role in the event that another team member is unavailable and includes the maintenance of an active interest in other systems related to those directly involved in assigned projects.
  • Other duties as assigned. An essential employee will act as a member of the McDonald Observatory's Emergency Response Team that responds to fire, medical, or other emergencies that threaten or interfere with normal operation.

For more information on this position, please see the full job posting here.

Building Attendant II - McDonald Observatory

Job Description: To perform general cleaning and housekeeping for a sixteen room lodging facility, a two bedroom suite, a cottage and a residence all of which are used as temporary quarters.

This position is located at McDonald Observatory, 16 miles from Fort Davis, Texas (440 miles away from UT Austin campus). The Astronomers' Lodge is open seven days a week and requires a variable work schedule to meet business needs.


  • Performs general cleaning and housekeeping and includes: sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, washing of bed linens and towels, cleaning of bathrooms, hallways, recreation room, laundry room entrances, and other space as needed.
  • Cleans large kitchen and dining area. Washes dishes, pots, pans, utensils, etc. Assists with restocking food and supplies in the dining room area.
  • Assists with inventory control, which includes tracking housekeeping supplies, linens, towels, and furnishings. Informs supervisor of needed supplies and prepares orders for general supplies on a regular basis.
  • Processes room registration forms in preparation of guest arrivals. Verifies registration documents for guests. Maintains room key assignments for incoming guests. Accepts and processes guest payments when necessary.
  • Assists in the kitchen with food preparations in the absence of the kitchen staff and on special catering events.
  • Performs general building maintenance inside and outside of the lodging facilities. Submits work orders to the physical plant when additional support is needed. Monitors progress of maintenance and reports status of maintenance projects, including delays, to the supervisor.
  • Checking in supplies and/or food items, receipt maintenance, and cash handling.
  • Other related functions as assigned, including backing up other duties in the Astronomer's Lodge.

For more information on this position, please see the full job posting here.

Visitor Services Assistant I - Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald Observatory

Job Description: Serve as the visitor services representative to support the education and public outreach mission of the McDonald Observatory by coordinating reservations, admissions, and visitor activities at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center.

This position is located at McDonald Observatory, 16 miles from Fort Davis, Texas (440 miles away from UT Austin campus). The Visitors Center is open seven days a week and requires a variable work schedule to meet business needs.


  • Greets and assists visitors, members, and groups upon arrival to the Observatory. Assists with responding to reservation questions via phone and email. Provides customer service and educational information to visitors.
  • Coordinates group sales and visits. Sell or collect admission tickets, passes, or memberships. Provide program and event information to visitors. Help solve customer concerns. Prepare operational reports or records. Assist in the receipt, disbursement, and accountability of funds and answering questions concerning policies and procedures. Prepare cashier booth for opening by securing cash from supervisor. Receives cash and checks, closes cashier booth and accounts for and turns in all monies and tickets received during a shift.
  • Assists with community activities and events on and offsite. Participates in a cross-functional team and works cooperatively with other staff members towards completion of projects. Assists with maintaining exhibits in the Visitors Center.
  • Assists with the StarDate Cafe and Gift Shop when needed. Assists with maintaining other telescope dome galleries. Performs janitorial duties as needed.

For more information on this position, please see the full job posting here.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers provide beneficial support to the Observatory and frequently bring their own telescopes to Star Parties to share striking views of the night sky with our visitors.

On-site Amateur Astronomer Volunteers at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center
Are you an experienced amateur astronomer looking for an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience with the public? Do you have an RV or travel trailer and the freedom to spend several weeks (or more) at a remote dark-sky site.

McDonald Observatory is looking for experienced astronomy fans to serve as site-volunteers to support public programs. The Visitors Center see approximately 75,000 visitors each year. Volunteers assist with day and night programs including guided tours, star parties, special viewing nights, and scout nights. Access to one the Observatory's RV sites may be granted to approved volunteers able to commit to at least 20 hours/week of service. Background check required. Greatest needs are typically through the month of March and late May through August.

For more information, please contact Frank Cianciolo, Visitors Center manager (, 432-426-4152).

Additional Volunteer Opportunities

The Frank N. Bash Visitor Center at McDonald Observatory offers volunteer opportunities to individuals interested in astronomy and/or education. The greatest need for volunteers has been during our public star parties at busy times of the year. We have several telescopes that we use for our public programs including a 16" Meade LX200, 22" Classical Cassegrain, 22" Dobsonian and several Celestron and Meade 8" Schmidt Cassegrains. Training is provided. If you would like more information please fill out this short form and one of volunteer coordinators will contact you with further information.

See also: Outreach volunteer opportunities in Austin


Visitors enjoying a star party at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald

Star Party