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23 April 2014
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Watch the show   Sir Patrick Moore   Programme History   Multimedia Tribute   Newsletter
Patrick Moore - presenter of Sky at Night


Patrick was born on 4 March 1923 in what was then the little Middlesex village of Pinner. At the age of six months he and his parents moved to Sussex where he has lived ever since - not counting the war years when he was a navigator in the RAF and a brief time in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. Between the ages of six and sixteen Patrick was ill, on and off, and this prevented him from attending school and so was mostly educated at home.

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During this time he picked up his mother's copy of 'The Story of the Solar System' which sparked his lifelong passion. Since then, he has concentrated upon studies of the Moon. In 1959, the Russians used his charts to correlate the first Lunik 3 pictures of the far side of the Moon and he was involved in the lunar mapping before the NASA Apollo missions.

Patrick Moore - the early years  
Presenting early Sky at Night shows

The Sky at Night

Patrick has written over 60 books on astronomy. Since April 1957, he has presented all bar one of the monthly Sky at Night programmes. This last fact has earned him a place in the 'Guinness book of Records' as the longest serving television presenter. Six months before the launch of Sputnik 1 and long before the 'space race', the sky was graced by the presence of a bright comet, Arend-Roland, at the time of the first ever broadcast.

Early editions were transmitted live from the BBC's Lime Grove studios, which allowed for the occasional unforeseen event. Patrick once swallowed a fly live on air and, on another occasion, he had to think on his feet when a Russian guest turned out not to speak any English; the interview went ahead in pidgin French.

Patrick Moore reminisces over four decades of The Sky at Night.

The programme has inspired successive generations of stargazers. "It gives me a great thrill to meet astronomers, both amateur and professional, who tell me their enthusiasm for the subject began by watching The Sky at Night, or through reading something I'd written," Patrick says.

Music and cricket

Partly thanks to his larger-than-life personality, bachelor Patrick's own fame extends far beyond astronomical circles. A self-taught musician and talented composer, he has displayed his xylophone-playing skills at a Royal Variety Performance. He also has a love for the game of cricket and has played for the Lord's Taveners.

Watch Patrick Moore's piano tribute to the astronomer, William Herschel.

Patrick Moore receives his BAFTA  
Patrick Moore receives his BAFTA

Astronomy remains his first love, and he has no plans to retire from The Sky at Night. "This century will be very interesting, though I will only see the first part of it, of course," he muses. "For instance, the first man on Mars has probably already been born, and we may have made contact with another life-form from somewhere we can only see clearly from Earth in the sky at night."

Over his illustrious life, Patrick has received a whole host of prestigious accolades. In 2001, Patrick received a knighthood from the Queen. In the same year, he won a BAFTA for his services to television and became a member of the Royal Society.

Patrick recalls the legendary scientists he has met during his life.

More from BBC

'People I have met' by Patrick Moore
'Sky at Night highlights' by Patrick Moore

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