Intern in the Science Division

Updated: 3 months ago

Internship 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. We therefore welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.


Our team and mission

This position can be based:

  • At the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) - Noordwijk, Netherlands
  • At the European Space Astronomy Centre  (ESAC) - Near Madrid, Spain

Under the direct authority of the Director of Science, the Science and Operations Department is responsible for ensuring that maximum scientific return, within applicable constraints, is maintained as an objective for the Directorate’s missions through their lifetime, by providing scientific oversight of the Directorate’s missions throughout their lifecycle, managing and being responsible for the operation of the Directorate’s missions once successfully commissioned, and curating the scientific data in their legacy phase, while establishing and maintaining the necessary science interfaces to the community. These responsibilities are discharged in full coordination with the Directorate’s Departments and Offices and, as appropriate, with the Directorate of Operations.

In implementing its duties, the Science and Operations Department is supported by the:

  • Science Division
  • Mission Operations Division
  • Science Operations Development Division
  • Data Science and Archive Division
  • Mission Support Office

For further information visit our web site:

Field(s) of activity for the internship

You can choose between the following topics:

1) Topic 1: Exploring the devouring nature of Neutron Stars through Stellar Wind studies (ESAC)

Neutron stars are the end products of massive stars and are among the most fascinating and extreme objects in the Universe. In the case of a high-mass X-ray binary (HMXB), the neutron star accretes material from a massive star, usually of more than 10 solar masses. The massive star loses large amounts of its mass via “stellar wind”. As the material falls onto the neutron star's surface, it releases immense amounts of energy, making HMXBs some of the brightest X-ray sources in the sky.

Studying the stellar wind tells us about the life cycle of some of the most massive stars in the galaxy, about how they shape and influence their surroundings, and about the interactions of matter and energy under the most extreme conditions. Those areas of research can be assessed through time-resolved high-resolution spectroscopy currently possible with e.g. XMM-Newton to lay the foundations for future revolutionary X-ray observatories such as the upcoming XRISM and ESA’s flagship mission Athena.

For more information on this topic, please visit: Exploring the devouring nature of Neutron Stars through Stellar Wind studies


2) Topic 2: Old star clusters in “young” dwarf galaxies (ESTEC)

Globular clusters are among the oldest stellar systems in the Universe and are commonly found in all types of galaxies, from low-mass dwarf galaxies to massive galaxies. Extragalactic globular clusters are detected in high resolution imaging as compact sources. Due to their smooth stellar distribution, mostly elliptical galaxies are targeted to detect globular clusters. In contrast, the globular cluster systems of star forming galaxies that have a more complex morphology with spiral arms, star formation regions and young star clusters are much less explored. 

In this project, we will use Hubble Space Telescope photometry of a sample of irregular, star-forming dwarf galaxies to detect globular cluster candidates and measure their sizes, magnitudes, masses, and colours. To confirm their nature as old star clusters, MUSE integral-field spectroscopy will be used to fully analyse and characterize the old globular clusters in these galaxies. By fitting the spectra, ages and metallicities will be obtained. This will give a unique view into the early formation of such dwarf galaxies that are currently undergoing star formation.

For more information on this topic, please visit: Old star clusters in “young” dwarf galaxies


3) Topic 3: Which supermassive black holes shape the evolution of the galaxy where they reside? (ESTEC)

Astrophysical black holes (BHs) cover a wide range of masses. Many of them accrete matter, either from a companion mass (if “stellar-mass” BHs in binary systems) or from the interstellar gas and dust (if “supermassive” BHs at the core of Active Galactic Nuclei, AGN). Efficient physical processes convert the gravitational energy into X-ray radiation. In stellar-mass BHs, such a radiation is variable on human time-scales, defining (X-ray Binary, XRB) accretion states. On the other hand, variability in AGN is much slower due to their mass and size. 

The “states” of stellar-mass accreting BHs allow us to well understand the nature of the accretion flow and of energetic outflows expelled by the BH, either in the form of collimated relativistic jets or uncollimated slower winds. While we cannot use the same technique with slowly varying AGN, one can map states in XRBs with populations of different types of AGN, using our deep understanding of the rich phenomenology in the former systems to unveil the nature of the accretion flow, disks and winds in the latter systems.

This project aims at exploiting a sample of AGN with prominent jet/wind signatures developed during a joint master project with the University of Leiden in 2022, and investigate their accretion state through of the ratio of the thermal radiation produced by the accretion disc (primarily in UV) against the non-thermal radiation produced by relativistic electrons close to the BH (primarily in X-rays). To achieve this goal, the student will employ thousands of AGN from 4XMM-DR10, the latest version of the catalogue of serendipitous sources detected by the EPIC instrument (X-ray Charge Coupled Device) on board the ESA’s observatory XMM-Newton.

For more information on this topic, please visit: Which supermassive black holes shape the evolution of the galaxy where they reside?

Behavioural competencies

Result Orientation
Operational Efficiency
Fostering Cooperation
Relationship Management
Continuous Improvement
Forward Thinking


You must have student status and be enrolled at university for the entire duration of the internship. You should preferably be in your final or second to last year of a university course at master’s level in a technical or scientific discipline.

Additional requirements

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.

Additional Requirements:

1) Topic 1:

  • Enthusiasm and curiosity for exploring scientific data
  • The trainee should be comfortable with the project being conducted in English
  • Basic astrophysics background, e.g. an introductory lecture is a plus
  • The project explicitly offers the chance to develop and improve your coding skills. If the trainee chooses to code in Python (or any other language than S-Lang), experience in this programming language, e.g. from a university course, is highly desirable but not required

2) Topic 2:

  • Familiarity with python
  • Experience with (integral-field) spectroscopy and or photometry would be an advantage
  • We will be using established tools for photometry (imfit) and spectroscopy (ppxf), so experience with those would be an asset

3) Topic 3: 

  • No formal pre-requisites for this project exist
  • Knowledge of matter-radiation process (e.g., photoelectric absorption, photoionization collisional and radiative de-excitation, radiative recombination) would be an asset
  • The project will require creating automated meta-analysis scripts to reduce and analyse data of a large number of (~a few hundreds)
  • Knowledge of a programming language (Python, IDL, etc.) would be therefore an asset

Other information

For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework.

If you require support with your application due to a disability, please email [email protected] .


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 Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as Associate Member States, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus as European Cooperating States (ECS).

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