Sir Patrick Moore presenting The Sky at Night
, October 2005
Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, HonFRS, FRAS (born 4 March 1923), known as Patrick Moore, is an English amateur astronomer who has attained legendary status in British astronomy as a writer and television presenter of the subject. He is a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, author of over 70 books on astronomy, presenter of the longest running television series (with the same original presenter), The Sky at Night on the BBC and a well-known figure on British television (such as being the Gamesmaster). He has a reputation for eccentricity, stemming from his mode of speech, a ubiquitous monocle, poorly fitting blazers and a fondness for the xylophone.
Sir Patrick Moore was born in Pinner, Middlesex, England and at an early age moved to Sussex, where he grew up. His youth was marked by poor health, and consequently, he was educated at home. Influenced by his mother, he developed an interest in astronomy that persisted into later life and helped to make him a famous and popular personality. During the Second World War, Moore served in the RAF and from 1940 until 1945 was a navigator in RAF Bomber Command, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. The war had a significant influence on his life: his only known romance ended when his fiancée Lorna, a nurse, was killed by a bomb which fell on her ambulance. Moore subsequently explained that he never married because "There was no one else for me... second best is no good for me...I would have liked a wife and family, but it was not to be.".
After the war, Moore constructed a home-made reflecting telescope in his garden and began to observe the Moon. He was fascinated by the subject and he is now acknowledged as a specialist in lunar observation, with one of his particular areas of expertise being studying the glimpses of the Moon's far side that are occasionally visible due to the Moon's libration. He was also an early observer of Transient lunar phenomena, short-lived glowing areas on the lunar surface.
On April 26, 1957, at 10:30 pm, in an event that was to be a landmark of his career, Moore presented the first episode of The Sky at Night, a monthly BBC television program for astronomy enthusiasts. Since then, he has presented every episode (except in July 2004 because of a near-fatal bout of food poisoning caused by eating a goose egg). This makes him the world's longest-running television presenter and a well-recognised face on British television. Early editions of The Sky at Night were transmitted live, and on one occasion he swallowed a fly live on air. Since 2004, the programme has been presented from Moore's home, as he is no longer able to travel to the studios, owing to arthritis. On 1 April 2007, a 50th anniversary commemorative edition of the programme was broadcast on BBC1, with Moore depicted as a Time lord and featuring special guests amateur astronomer Jon Culshaw (impersonating Moore presenting the very first The Sky At Night) and Dr Brian May (who is also an amateur astronomer). This tongue-in-cheek edition of the show included a look-ahead to the state of astronomy in the year 2057, with May recalling his appearance in a disastrous concert on the moon, in which an accident resulted in an explosion of rocket fuel that sent Queen drummer Roger Taylor into orbit, with accompanying footage of Taylor orbiting the moon, drumsticks still in hand. During the programme, Moore tries in vain to warn his past self to avoid the goose egg that gave him food poisoning in 2004 and makes remarks about his annoyance at the late time slot the show usually occupies.
Sir Patrick Moore has conducted significant work in the field of astronomy: in 1959, the Soviet Union used his charts of the moon to correlate their first pictures of the far side with his mapped features on the near side and he was involved in the lunar mapping used by the NASA Apollo space missions. In 1965, he was appointed Director of the newly-constructed Armagh Planetarium, a post he held until 1968. During the Apollo program, he was one of the presenters of BBC television's coverage of the moon landing missions. The tapes of these broadcasts no longer survive; conflicting stories have circulated asto what precisely happened to them, or whether the broadcasts were recorded at all. He compiled the Caldwell catalogue of astronomical objects and in 1982 asteroid 2602 Moore was named in his honour.
In the 1970s, Moore was Chairman of the anti-immigration United Country Party, a position he held until the party was absorbed by the New Britain Party in 1980. He is currently a member of the United Kingdom Independence Party. He is an opponent of fox hunting and all blood sports. He has been a life-long animal lover, actively supporting many animal welfare charities. He has a particular affinity for cats and owns two.
In 1945, Moore was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 2001, he was knighted and appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society. He also won a BAFTA for his services to television. In June 2002, he was appointed as Honorary Vice President of the Society for the History of Astronomy, the UK's national society in this field, and continues to serve in this capacity. On 7 March 2006, he was hospitalised with heart problems and in consequence he was fitted with an pacemaker.
After the BBC withdrew support for financial reasons, Moore independently produced a 50th anniversary DVD of his life and work.
Other interests and popular culture
Aside from The Sky at Night, Moore has appeared in a number of other television and radio shows, including, from 1992 until 1998, playing the role of Gamesmaster in the television show of the same name: a character who professed to know everything there is to know about video gaming and sported his trademark monocle. He also appeared in self-parodying roles, in several episodes of The Goodies. He had a minor role in the fourth radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and featured in the Radio 1 sci-fi parody, Independence Day UK. He has written more than 70 books, mostly non-fiction dealing with astronomical topics and several science fiction novels. His first novels were a series about the first arrivals on Mars, followed in 1977 by the start of the Scott Saunders Space Adventure series, aimed primarily at a younger audience, which eventually ran to six novels. He has appeared on television at least once in a film prop spacesuit. He has stated that he believes that there has never been any real contact with space aliens and he dismisses any theories of the extra-terrestrial origin of UFOs.
Moore is listed by the Internet Movie Database as uncredited Musical Consultant on the 1968 Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C Clarke "2001: A Space Odyssey". In 1983 he published Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them under the pseudonym R. T. Fishall.
Until being forced to give up owing to arthritis, Moore was a keen musician and accomplished xylophone player. He has composed a substantial corpus of works, including two operettas, one of which is entitled Galileo: The True Story. He sometimes performed novelty turns at the Royal Variety Performance and once appeared in a song-and-dance act in a Morecambe and Wise Christmas special. As a guest on Have I Got News For You, he accompanied the show's closing theme tune on the xylophone and as a pianist, once accompanied Albert Einstein playing The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns on the violin (of which no recording was made). He is a friend of Queen guitarist and amateur astronomer Dr Brian May, who himself is a sometime guest on The Sky At Night. The pair have co-authored a book with Chris Lintott, entitled Bang! The Complete History of the Universe.
In January 1998, part of Moore's observatory was destroyed by a tornado which passed through the area in Sussex where he resides. The observatory was subseqently rebuilt.
Because of his long-running television career, eccentric manner, distinctively rapid speech delivery and ubiquitous monocle, Moore is widely recognised as a public figure, even to people with no interest in astronomy. In 1976, this was used to good effect for an April Fool's spoof on BBC Radio 2, when Moore announced that at 9.47 am, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur: Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would reduce the Earth's own gravity. Moore informed listeners that if they could jump at the exact moment that this event occurred, they would experience a temporary floating sensation. The BBC later received many telephone calls from listeners alleging that they actually experienced the sensation.
Moore joined the Flat Earth Society as an ironic joke though many have taken this seriously.
- ^ Why Patrick Moore is married to the moon. This is London article. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
- ^ Town picks up the pieces after tornado. BBC News website. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
- ^ The Flat Earth and its Advocates: A List of References. Library of Congress Science Reference Guides. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
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