The Sky At Night - our 700th episode

Thursday 3 March 2011, 15:00

Dr Chris Lintott Dr Chris Lintott Presenter

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The Sky At Night has been a part of my life for years. My school had an observatory and the astronomy club devoured episodes old and new, so it was an enormous honour to be asked to appear on the programme.

When I first appeared, in 2000, the programme was still shot in a corner of one of BBC Television Centre's enormous studios.

But when producer Jane Fletcher took over in 2002 we moved to the homelier surroundings of Farthings, Sir Patrick Moore's home in Selsey, West Sussex.

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By then I'd joined Patrick as co-presenter, reporting on missions to Mars and Saturn as well as trying to talk coherently about the mysteries of cosmology.

Luckily, the show has a fantastic relationship with the scientists who appear on it, most of whom jump at the chance to spend time in Patrick's home, full of astronomical books and curios of all sorts.

It's our ability to sit down and find out what's exciting these passionate, clever people that's one of the secrets of the show's longevity.

The other reason the show reaches its 700th episode on Sunday is, of course, Patrick.

When he speaks, people listen because they're confident they will understand his explanations, whether he's talking about the Moon or black holes.

We needed every ounce of that ability to deal with some of the questions that we had for the 700th programme, which ranged from enquires about alien life to questions about why Venus' thick, sulphurous atmosphere is so different from that of Earth.

The idea to ask for viewers' questions for our 700th episode came from a conversation amongst the team, but I'm really surprised and pleased how well it's come out.

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The filming was a real highlight of my time on the programme. Our expert panel, which included Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, Brian Cox and even Jon Culshaw, did a fabulous job of working through the questions.

I think everyone involved - except possibly Patrick, who knows everything already - learned something along the way.

Hopefully the programme will be remembered as a high point in The Sky At Night's 54-year run, but there have been lows too.

Patrick has learned to laugh at the 50th programme, when an attempt to show live images through a telescope was stymied by clouds, [see Cloudy Skies clip] but for me I think the worst was the programme where we had to report the loss of British Mars probe, Beagle 2.

There have been plenty of successes, though, and our view of the universe is very different today from when the first programme went out.

The pace of change is accelerating all the time, and I for one can't wait to see what the universe looks like after another 700 programmes.

Dr Chris Lintott is the co-presenter of The Sky At Night.

The Sky At Night's 700th episode is on BBC One and BBC One HD at 11.25pm on Sunday, 6 March. There is a special extended hour-long edition on BBC Four at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 8 March.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Watch Sky At Night episodes from 2001 to 2008 on the BBC Science website and see the moon landings on The Sky At Night on the BBC Archive.

The Sky At Night co-presenter Paul Abel was a guest on Shaun Keaveny's 6 Music breakfast show on Wednesday. You can listen to the show at 6 Music's website until Tuesday, 8 March.

You can view and add your own astronomy photos to The Sky At Night's Flickr group.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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Comments

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    A sad reflection on our dumbed down society that this has received no comments.....

    Well done to Patrick and the team for keeping it going all these years...

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    Comment number 2.

    I agree with you that almost all of today’s mainstream television is marketed with the lowest common denominator in mind, just listening to the narration on the BBC’s “Human Planet”, says it all. Anyway... rant over.

    The Sky at Night is a great programme and a pleasure to watch. Happy 700th Birthday. I hope you make 700 more.

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    Comment number 3.

    Here's hoping for 700 more episodes of this marvellous series.

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    Comment number 4.

    Congratulations to Patrick and all the teams involved over the years. Like many, I've been inspired for many years by Patrick's enthusiasm and The Sky At Night is a little gem of a programme. Here's to many more.

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    Comment number 5.

    The lack of comments is more to do with the BBC pushing this show around, I'm quite fed up with the way the BBC treat the show these days.

    Brian Cox is more their sort of thing as he's 'down wid dz kidz'

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    Comment number 6.

    Well here is one more comment. It's an awesome program, one of the best things on tv, i think it must be some thing close to a miracle that the sky at night has survived all these years more or less intact. No doubt the knives will be out if Sir Patrick dies and it'll get 'revamped' in some depressingly hip and trendy way. Still there is only ever going to be one patrick moore so without him it'll never be the same anyway.

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    Comment number 7.

    I love the Sky at Night and I am a relative newcomer to the show having only started to watch it about a year and a half ago. It's unlike any other show but above all it does not patronize me unlike other science shows. It manages to fit more it it's half hour slot than other science programmes do in an hour. Keep up the good work.

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    Comment number 8.

    Well done and thanks for the first 700. Here's to lots more.
    The first one I saw was in 1971 .

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    Comment number 9.

    I am almost as old as the program, to the week. Once I realised the show existed, I have done my best to see every one. Don't worry about the lack of comments here - We long time viewers are not very fond of posting comments on things - it's far more interesting to go out and discover stuff.
    Many thanks to Sir Patrick, the BBC and everyone who has ever worked or been on the show. Quiet pleasures like the 'Sky at Night' are a rarety and a joy to be treasured - as well as being utterly fascinating !

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    Comment number 10.

    My favourite TV programme of all time. I'm grateful to the BBC for the extended editions on BBC4 as I've always thought 20 minutes per month was never enough, no matter how quickly our wonderful Patrick talked; With the weather in the UK being what it is, watching The Sky at Night is often the only astronomy we amatuer astonomers get! Here's to another 700 episodes - cheers!

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    Comment number 11.

    I like it when they blow my mind with new discoveries, and all that game, or explaining in plain english about what all the matter in the Universe gets up to, but I wish they'd elbow the dullness of staring at dots in the sky in the dead of night, and their bloomin' obsession with solar eclipses.

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    Comment number 12.

    This is a wonderful programme which I have enjoyed for many years.

    Regrettably, the BBC have chosen to schedule this world record-breaking 700th edition to finish after midnight on Monday morning. This unique event deserves far better and as a mark of respect to the eminent presenters and loyal viewers, it should be broadcast earlier in the evening.

    Just this once, for example, it could have followed the Wonders of the Universe by Professor Cox. This is a missed opportunity and in my view a great pity.

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    Comment number 13.

    Many congratulations to Patrick and the team on reaching their 700th!... But as others have said, just because it is called The Sky at Night, it does not have always to broadcast at that time!... I wonder why it is not broadcast at a suitable time on the Children's Channel too?

    Question to the 'Beautiful Minds'. Is it possible that due to gravity, time actually stands still inside Black Holes, and that is why light, energy and matter is not expelled?

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    Comment number 14.

    I was lucky enough to be able to spend a evening with Sir Patrick in his home when I was almost 11 years only. A friend an I wrote to ask if we could come and see him and he treated us to a great evening of astronomy and explanations of the universe. My life is now moved on and I now a priest and deal with another kind of infinite on a daily basis. I remember Sir Patrick's kindness and have be inspired to keep seeking to understand the universe around us. I have seen and studied many wonderful things over the years but the sight of the Saturn and its rings seen through the great man's hand built telescope on that Feb night 36 years ago is something that has inspired me through the years.

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    Comment number 15.

    He's not a patch on Dr. J.G. Porter.

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    Comment number 16.

    Great programme that I've watched since wayback and I also remember Patrick talking about the Moon landings.

    I hope Patrick is still around for any future landing on Mars.

    Congratulations 'The Sky At Night' Cheers, daveac

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    Comment number 17.

    A great legend indeed, and congratulations on what is the most amazing show of its kind on television.
    Heres to another 700!

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    Comment number 18.

    Sorry, I was outside messing around with my beloved light bucket. Which I would never have been doing had it not been for the influence of this programme on me as a child.

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    Comment number 19.

    A show which the licence fee is all about, passing on knowledge in an entertaining way. Long may it continue.. A few more shows like this would be great. Maybe a new tomorrow's world!

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    Comment number 20.

    i started watching this programme in 1973. it showed me that there is something you never know in outer space, once i watched this programme in 73, i have been following since!

 

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