Browse Open Jobs | Search Open Jobs | Edit Your Profile | View Submitted Applications

Job Details

Requisition Number 17-0093
Post Date 5/16/2017
Title Public Program Specialist
City Tucson
State AZ

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) operates several observatory centers (including the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), the National Solar Observatory (NSO), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the Gemini Observatory in the United States and Chile, under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation.

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is seeking several candidates with an outgoing personality, excellent public speaking skills, and strong knowledge and passion for astronomy to join the Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center team and support our array of evening program offerings. You must enjoy and be proficient at sharing your knowledge with diverse groups of visitors. In this role, you are the public face of the Observatory to our nighttime guests and are expected to represent us in a positive, professional manner at all times. These are part time positions with hours that vary seasonally.

The Public Program Specialist performs the following functions:

  • Conducts the very popular Nightly Observing Program for audiences including the general public, tour groups, schools, youth groups and others.
  • Leads stargazing sessions, demonstrates the use of planispheres, and leads binocular viewing of the night sky.
  • Sets up and operates telescopes and interprets astronomical views for visitors.
  • Demonstrates and interprets the function of telescopes and astronomical equipment.
  • Enthusiastically welcomes all guests, checks in program participants upon their arrival, distributes visitor dinners, and operates the Point Of Sale cash register in the Gift Shop.
  • Accurately answers a wide variety of questions from the general public.
  • Works carefully with a variety of expensive equipment, electronics, and optics.
  • Conducts or assists with other Visitor Center classes, workshops, and VIP Tours, as needed.
  • Attends periodic staff meetings and supplemental training sessions.
  • Performs other related tasks as assigned.

While most work is performed at Kitt Peak, some candidates may be trained to conduct the popular Binocular Stargazing Program which occurs at nearby National Parks. Transportation to the work sites and meals during shifts on the mountain are provided by NOAO. There are several opportunities for growth related to this position. As the candidate’s expertise grows, he/she may also operate the new Dark Sky Discovery Program. Staff with proven records may be invited to present the Overnight Telescope Observing Program or other advanced programs.


  • Conducts engaging, lively Nightly Observing Programs with enthusiasm and scientific accuracy to diverse audiences. Operates telescopes and provides interesting interpretation of the viewed objects to guests.
  • Uses connected computer systems to accurately point the telescope and track astronomical objects.
  • Reliably and punctually reports to all assigned shifts. Dependability is essential in this position.
  • Adequately studies and prepares for programs, with ongoing reading to remain up to date on recent developments in astronomy and strong familiarity the current night sky.
  • Conducts alternative programs, interesting demonstrations and special tours on cloudy nights. Drives NOAO vehicles to transport visitors for cloudy night tours.
  • Works closely and cooperatively with AOP/NOP Coordinator and the Visitor Center Manager on issues relating to public programs.
  • Closely and consistently adheres to all NOAO policies and procedures, especially those relating to visitor safety, use of NOAO vehicles, and light pollution control during work shifts.
  • Operates and carefully follows accounting and Point of Sale system (cash register) procedures for ticket and merchandise sales in the Gift Shop.
  • Helps with telescope, program equipment, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance.
  • Performs other safety and security functions on the mountain, as required of all staff.
  • Conducts or assists with special programs, workshops, and tours when assigned.
  • Safely operates and cares for Visitor Center telescopes and related equipment by consistently adhering to all established operating procedures.
  • Works well with, and employs open and tactful communication and cooperation with, all supervisors, coworkers and docents. 
  • Periodically helps to cover shifts that open on short notice due to absent or ill staff members to assure all programs are fully staffed.


  • A substantial knowledge of astronomy, a strong familiarity with the night sky, and experience with a variety of observing techniques and equipment; advanced knowledge of astronomy is preferred.
  • Ability to work enthusiastically, cooperatively and patiently with all guests, volunteers and staff.
  • Strong, very well-developed public speaking, teaching, and interpretative skills.
  • Must have the ability to work a flexible schedule of shifts that routinely include both late afternoons and evenings.
  • Once you agree to a schedule for a particular month, you must have the ability to commit to work that agreed upon schedule.
  • Ability to receive continual training, put training into practice, and accept ongoing constructive feedback from managers and colleagues.
  • Ability to learn abstract and practical concepts in astronomy as well as use of common astronomical instruments.
  • Must have well developed PC computer skills and the ability to quickly learn new applications.
  • Ability to learn the use of a variety of electronic and optical devices and to consistently follow all applicable operating procedures for their safe operation.
  • Experience using a cash register in a retail setting is desirable; ability to learn its proficient use is required.
  • CPR and AED certification is required and will be provided by NOAO.
  • Satisfactory completion of any other required safety training.
  • Provide uniformly excellent customer satisfaction service to all guests and consistently project a professional image of the Visitor Center team to all guests and colleagues.
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure.
  • Ability to deal effectively and tactfully with the public, fellow employees, managers, and volunteers; and respond professionally to unusual or unexpected situations.
  • Organized, energetic, honest, and outgoing with strong work ethic.
  • Must enjoy working with diverse audiences.
  • Valid State driver’s license and a valid GSA permit issued by NOAO.
  • Ability to pass a background check, per AURA policy.
  • Ability to climb stairs and work at 6,800 feet altitude for sustained periods of time in a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions.
  • Bilingual English/Spanish preferred.

This position will remain open until filled. Please list 3 professional references in your application. Please include a statement of professional interests, or cover letter, and a resume or cv, in pdf format (preferred). Please reference Job #17-0093, Public Program Specialist-KPVC, when applying. If you have any attachments please save them with the following format: 17-0093_lastname_docname. Documents that cannot be uploaded with your application can be sent to:

AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, is committed to diversity and inclusion. AURA develops and supports programs that advance our organizational commitment to diversity, broaden participation, and encourage the advancement of diversity throughout the astronomical scientific workforce. Learn more at

As a recipient of U.S. Government funding, AURA is considered a government contractor and is subject to Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action regulations. As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA does not discriminate based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender identity expression, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws. The statements below as well as the requests for self-identification are required pursuant to these regulations. We encourage your participation in meeting these federal reporting requirements which are included for protection and to assist us in our recordkeeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential.

Preference granted to qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O'odham reservation.

  • Equal Opportunity Employer/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities.
  • Please view Equal Employment Opportunity Posters provided by OFCCP here.
  • The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor's legal duty to furnish information. 41 CFR 60-1.35(c)
Apply On-line
Send This Job to a Friend