Young Graduate Trainee for Enhanced Spectral Analysis, Madrid, Spain 159 views

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.

Post Young Graduate Trainee for Enhanced Spectral Analysis This post is classified F1.

Location ESAC, Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain

Our team and mission

XMM-Newton is an ESA space observatory that collects X-rays from astronomical sources. Since its launch in 1999, it has been exploring the extreme Universe to probe the latter’s origins and destiny, including the nature of black holes, dark matter and gravity. XMM-Newton includes three high-throughput X-ray telescopes with an unprecedented collecting area. Each has an X-ray CCD camera, the European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC), at its focus. Onboard also are two Reflection Grating Spectrometers and an Optical Monitor for simultaneous X-ray imaging, spectroscopy and UV/optical measurements. The large collecting area and spectral capabilities, combined with an ability to make long uninterrupted exposures, makes it ideally suited to providing highly sensitive, high spectral resolution, long and continuous X-ray observations.

The Traineeship will proceed under the mentorship of the XMM-Newton Project Scientist in close cooperation with the XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre team, which includes several scientists and software engineers specialising in X-ray data analysis and interpretation.

Candidates interested are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Field(s) of activity

Observations taken with the XMM-Newton CCD cameras collect photons from the targeted astrophysical sources as well as photons and counts from other point-like or diffuse sources of different origins that fill the field of view and together comprise the background. The measured background has two main components: one of cosmic origin, often referred to as the sky background, and another of instrumental origin, hence called the instrumental background. The latter component reflects the particle radiation environment at the spacecraft’s position during observation. Both components show a spatial dependency in the camera. Whereas the sky background has to be modelled for each observation individually, the instrumental background can be much better characterised using observations obtained with the filter wheel, on top of each camera, in closed position. Such an approach has become standard for image analysis of extended X-ray emissions from clusters of Galaxies, but is not used for spectral analysis and modelling of these and other astrophysical sources.

You will explore ways of performing spectral analysis of XMM-Newton CCD data making use of the two background contributions estimated with a new methodology. Firstly, the background spectrum will be measured in the standard way in the same image on a location close to the target. Then, the instrumental background spectrum will be estimated using the new technique. The XMM-Newton Science Analysis Software (SAS) can now be used to generate this contribution using data collected with the filter wheel closed. The basis of this task and its results were presented at a dedicated session of a science workshop at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in May. The experts attending encouraged the mission team to make the results available and usable by the community. The method to be developed by you as YGT will provide a new and innovative way of extracting the physical information, the X-ray spectra. It also has great potential to be applied to the analysis of data from future X-ray missions such as Athena.

The expected outcome of the project is – in addition to developing the method outlined above – to provide you with basic experience in the following topics, with the emphasis depending on your background expertise and interests:

  • scientific research
  • analysis of data from XMM-Newton
  • description of spectral analysis, considering instrumental background knowledge
  • parametrisation of X-ray background for different positions in the Galaxy

The expected project results may be published as an XMM-Newton technical note and/or as a refereed paper in the scientific literature, depending on the results.

Technical competencies

Knowledge of relevant technical domains

Relevant experience gained during internships/project work

Breadth of exposure coming from past and/or current research/activities

Knowledge of ESA and its programmes/projects

Behavioural competencies

Self Motivation


Continuous Learning

Cross-Cultural Sensitivity



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. physics,astrophysics, data science, mathematics, computing engineer or software engineering career paths are appropriate.

Additional requirements

One or more of the expertise listed below are desirable:

  • Basic Astrophysical background, or
  • Basic Data Science knowledge or Software Engineering background
  • Some experience with machine learned-based tools, like artificial neural networks
  • Linux at user level
  • Some experience with programming languages like IDL or Python
  • Some experience with the XMM-Newton software (SAS) or with standard routines in X-ray astronomy like xspec. Some experience with astronomical databases (ADS, NED, Vizier …)

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.

Other information 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 protected]

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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

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