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Monday, 10 December 2012

Sir Patrick Moore

My family and I were deeply saddened by the news of Sir Patrick Moore’s death yesterday.  I feel I have lost part of my childhood.   My interest in astronomy was fuelled by the Sky at Night, and all the incredibly exciting events of my school years.  Our generation grew up during the great age of space exploration: the moon landings, the Voyager missions, and the Space Shuttle launches, to name just a few landmark events of the past half century. 

Sir Patrick was always there to entertain with his boundless enthusiasm and passion for astronomy, and to help explain what had happened if things went tragically wrong.  He could always be relied on to clarify the most obscure technicalities of the subject without ‘dumbing it down’ for the television audience.  And he was always keen to emphasize that you do not need to buy any expensive equipment to enjoy the wonders of the night sky, and that even amateur astronomers could make a valuable contribution to science by making careful observations.  Amateur astronomers have discovered new comets and supernovae.

Sir Patrick’s moon maps and observations were so precise and detailed that they were used by NASA when the moon landings were being planned.

Sir Patrick’s work was an inspiration to millions of astronomy fans. I do hope that the Sky at Night programmes will continue, so that more generations will be inspired to gaze up at the heavens, and wonder...

Images from the author’s collection:
Cover page of a Moon landing special souvenir issue of the Stockport Express, 1969.
The author’s observations of the Moon with a small telescope in 1975. 
 The planet Saturn in 1872. Sir R. S. Ball, The Story of the Heavens, Cassell & Co., 1893.

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