Harleston Sancroft Academy student helping to reveal the wonders of the universe as he aims high with career

A former Harleston Sancroft Academy student is helping to uncover the wonders of the universe as part of his study of the night sky.

Public astronomy officer Jake Foster is part of the team at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich – a role which sees him absorbed in the celestial objects that surround Earth.

He is responsible for planning, developing and delivering a programme built around engagement through public star-gazing, as well as presenting planetarium shows and live streams of astronomical events.

Jake Foster works at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich
Jake Foster works at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich

It means the 26-year-old oversees and manages the observatory’s Annie Maunder modern astrographic telescope, although not all of his work is focused on such modern technology.

“I operate a 28-foot Victorian telescope called the Great Equatorial Telescope, which is a unique piece of equipment,” said Mr Foster, who grew up in Pulham Market.

“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.

“We get lots of light pollution in London, but we’re always pushing the boundaries to try to get the best quality pictures we can under those conditions.

“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 the capital, left Harleston Sancroft Academy in 2012, with little sign that his talents would take him into a career in astronomy.

“I wouldn’t say I always had that goal as a child,” he said. “It was more a gradual progression for me.

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

“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. I remember being curious at school and being encouraged to ask questions.

“It was a very nice, welcoming environment in that way, and I feel that was an important part of me developing my interests.”

Rob Connelly, headteacher at Harleston Sancroft Academy and a former teacher of Mr Foster, said he exemplified the school’s vision.

“We are immensely proud of Jake and the journey he has been on to secure this incredible role at the Royal Observatory,” he said.

“I have fond memories of working with Jake while he was a student at Sancroft, specifically supporting him in his final years as he prepared for his GCSE exams.

“Jake is a true example of the school’s vision, where we encourage all members to experience our motto of ‘life in all its fullness’.

“This achievement is a reflection of Jake’s continued commitment to his studies and career.”



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