1 9 5 7 – 2 0 1 2 (UK)
The Sky At Night first appeared on British television sets on 24 April 1957, hosted by Patrick Moore, and opening to the stirring At The Castle Gate – a segment from the opera Pelléas et Mélisande by Jean Sibelius.
At a time when pulsars, quasars and black holes were unknown, the show – initially to be called Star Map – was scheduled to run for three months
“I thought The Sky At Night would last only a few months,” Moore once said. “It’s nobody’s enemy. It’s cheap and non-controversial. It is no skill on my part.”
When the series started, there was no space race and no expectation that a man might one day stand upon the surface of the Moon.
It was, in fact, Moore who first told British viewers with absolute certainty that life on the Moon was a fantasy (it had been a matter of debate even into the early 1960s).
The programme became a television institution and Moore stayed with it for more than four decades. During that time, he missed just one episode when he was struck down by food poisoning in July 2004.
Patrick’s proficiencies saw him crop up on all sorts of programmes over the years, from serious lunar discussions (NASA used maps of the moon which Moore produced to help plan the moon landing) to fooling around on The Generation Game and Blankety Blank.
Whether discussing spectroscopic binaries or deflecting cosmological speculation (will it crash into the earth? will there be little green men? was there a Big Bang?), Moore’s breathless pace and infectious enthusiasm generated its own romance of the subject.
His speciality was balancing knowledgeable talk with schoolboy eagerness when observing eclipses and comets or when interviewing celebrated figures like Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin or NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong.
He was also a popular target for impressionists such as Mike Yarwood and hosted a computer games show called Gamesmaster in the 1990s. He was knighted by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace on 2 March 2001.
Sir Patrick Moore passed away on 9 December 2012 at his home in Selsey, West Sussex.