For my generation, watching The Sky at Night was a part of our childhood. I can remember sitting down with my parents and brother, and watching many episodes together. What I loved about it was the Patrick Moore presented the programme. As a child, seeing this monocle-wearing, xylophone-playing man talking so enthusiastically about the universe made the show a must see. And I loved his sense of humour and irreverence.
The Sky at Night ran from 1957 until December 2012 on the BBC and set a broadcasting record as every episode was presented by Sir Patrick. Despite being a world-authority on Astronomy, he always considered himself an amateur and was more interested in what we don’t know, than what we do. He also has no time for scientists who tried to come up with theories without any scientific evidence to back them up. Sir Patrick also considered Astrology complete rubbish as it had no scientific basis.
Moore’s interest in the stars started when he was given a telescope as a child, and he wrote his first scientific paper at the age of thirteen after seeing a lunar crater through this telescope. He went on to write hundreds of papers, and published many books during his lifetime.
Sir Patrick was anti-establishment and loved causing controversy. When he was in Utah for an episode of the Sky at Night, a local resident told him the Mormon state “had no swearing, drinking or wild women here” to which he quipped “It’s hardly worth coming is it?” And his 1982 book – Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them was seen as a swipe at authority.
TV outside of The Sky at Night played a big part in his life, and he appeared on many comedy and panel shows. He was also a keen musician and played the piano as well as the Xylophone. Sport was also a passion of Moore’s, and he forged a keen reputation as a spin bowler.
Sir Patrick Moore was one of a kind. Scholarly with the common touch. Respected yet irreverent. He replied to every letter from his fans, sending them all a postcard with the answer to their questions hammered out on an ancient postcard. The Sky at Night was his passion. His life. And he helped transfer that passion and interest to countless others.
Farewell Sir Patrick. Rest in peace. The world will probably never see your kind again. And next time you look up at the stars, think of the man with the monocle who helped you learn all about them.