From operating a Victorian telescope to uncovering the wonders of the universe, it is fair to say Jake Foster’s job is out of this world.

The former Harleston Sancroft Academy pupil works as a public astronomy officer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London.

It is a star-studded role which sees him absorbed in the celestial objects that surround Earth while studying the night sky.

Eastern Daily Press: Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum LondonRoyal Observatory and National Maritime Museum London (Image: Royal Observatory / National Maritime Museum London)

Eastern Daily Press: The Royal ObservatoryThe Royal Observatory (Image: © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London)

As well as planning, developing and delivering programmes built around engagement through public stargazing, he is responsible for presenting planetarium shows and live streams of astronomical events. 

This means that the 26-year-old oversees and manages the observatory’s Annie Maunder modern astrographic telescope. 

Although not all of his work is focused on modern technology.

Eastern Daily Press: The Great Equatorial TelescopeThe Great Equatorial Telescope (Image: © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London)

“I operate a 28-foot Victorian telescope called the Great Equatorial Telescope, which is a unique piece of equipment," he said.

“It’s the largest of its kind in the UK and not something you can really train for in advance, so I had to shadow someone else when I first arrived a little more than two years ago and learned on the job.” 

Despite having to deal with lots of light pollution in London, the former Pulham Market resident said the team were “always pushing the boundaries” to try to get the best quality pictures possible.

Eastern Daily Press: Stargazing at the Royal ObservatoryStargazing at the Royal Observatory (Image: Royal Observatory / National Maritime Museum London)

He added: “The most rewarding part of what I do involves getting other people excited about looking up at the night sky. Our free live streams of events like solar eclipses are a great way to get people interested. 

“We want to inspire people to go outside at night, look at the stars, feel that wow factor and want to learn more.” 

Mr Foster, who now lives in London, left school in 2012 with little sign that his talents would take him into a career in astronomy. 

Eastern Daily Press: Jake Foster at school in 2012Jake Foster at school in 2012 (Image: Jake Foster)

“I loved seeing how things work and really enjoyed physics, so I guess astronomy was the natural next step,” he said. 

“If you are learning how things work, then why not apply that interest to the biggest things in the universe? 

“For someone who liked looking for the answers to tricky questions, it was a natural progression.” 

Rob Connelly, headteacher at Harleston Sancroft Academy and a former teacher of Mr Foster, said: “We are immensely proud of Jake. 

“This achievement is a reflection of [his] continued commitment to his studies and career.” 



What is the Great Equatorial Telescope?

The 28-inch refracting telescope at the Royal Observatory Greenwich is the largest of its kind in the UK.

Built by the Grubb Telescope Company in Dublin and installed in 1893, the telescope was originally designed to be used for astrophotography. However, it quickly became vital to the Royal Observatory's research into double stars - pairs of stars which appear close to each other.

Anyone visiting Greenwich can see the telescope's distinctive 'onion dome' roof when they look up towards the Royal Observatory.

Unlike fixed telescopes, this telescope can rotate from east to west. This allows astronomers to swing the telescope across the night sky, keeping it moving in sync with the rotating stars. 

The telescope is aligned with the Earth’s axis and moves parallel to the equator — hence the name Great Equatorial Telescope. Today astronomers have counted more than 150,000 double stars.