I agree, this is the most sensible path for someone with IT and programming experience. I spent over 10 years following this path, worked for top astronomy institutions and observatories. It was quite fulfilling and allowed me to contribute to many research papers and projects. But, this career is almost always based on soft-money (grants) and it is almost unheard of to get a truly tenured position without going the PhD/academic route. I eventually left astronomy due to fizzling of grants and the desirability of the skills I gained while becoming a data-analytics software engineer (eg. data scientist in today's parlance). I also wanted to start a family and have more control over my skills, location, and career options. Finally, working as a telescope support or astronomy software engineer, expect your salary to be in the $45k-80k (US). The skills you use as a successful astronomy software engineer will easily net you 1.5 to 2 times this salary, in industry.