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The Sky At Night - our 700th episode

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Dr Chris Lintott Dr Chris Lintott | 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011

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.


  • 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...

  • 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.

  • Comment number 3.

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

  • 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.

  • 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'

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • 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 !

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Comment number 21.

    You only need to look up at night to understand what is at the heart of The Sky At Night's enduring appeal. When I look up I don't see CGI or hear an elaborate narrative (nothing wrong with that: the subject warrants it). Rather, it's simply the silent wonder that you feel. It's one of the few experiences left to us that actually makes you simply shut up and think - and wonder what might be possible.

    (And when I look up at night, I hear the Sky At Night theme music... there you go!)

  • Comment number 22.

    I've watched sky at night since my boyhood and continue to watch to this very day, the format of this program has the “open university effect” in that no matter how uninformed you where when you began watching, by the programs end the universe you find yourself living in has become a lot more interesting...

    The voice of Patrick Moor has been the one I will remember having shared the big cosmological events the first moon landings, the launch of the voyager deep space probes, during the development of the first space station and the early mars rovers.

    Always this program has encourages the amateur astronomers and shows how in this computerised world can participate with tips and practical hints on how to become involved.

    A big thank you to the BBC and all who have contributed over the years

  • Comment number 23.

    I first saw Patrick Moore at an astronomical society meeting at the Kingston High School, Hull in 1955 or 1956, I think, when he gave a lecture there. I would be about 14 years old at the time. I was there with my father and I remember shaking Patrick's hand. I have had a love of astronomy ever since, and regularly watch The Sky at Night. I bought his Observer's Book of Astronomy in 1962 and my copy is still with me. Well done on your 700th programme.

  • Comment number 24.

    Congratulations to Sir Patrick Moore and the sky at night team for a record breaking show that fullfill's the BBC remit to inform, educate and entertain. Also a big thank you to all the guests who have appeared over the years.

    I have watched the program for as long as I can remember. I think that the sky at night is unique in that it covers and features astronomy from absolute beginners, through keen and dedicated amateurs to professional astronomers who specialise in one area of astronomy and in a format that everybody can easily understand.

  • Comment number 25.

    Brilliant episode, a friend who hasn't watched the sky at night for years was just leaving as the programme came on, they sat rivetted for the whole show, fantastic job to all, it looked like you had a thoroughly great time and your contributions were enlightening with the underlying sense of fun and awe - just as life should be!

    I really appreciated the format of the show - made me realize when one is watching the Sky at Night you can never be sure what sort of shot or camera angle is goin to be ysed next - brilliant! I also was moved by the way in which everyone reverted to that child like wonder of seeing the beauty of astronomy for the first time, all down to Patrick!

    May you all be blessed with clear skies when you wish,

    Lee Cornwall/Portsmouth

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi, I enjoyed the Q's and A's on last nights program. Where are they and the selected others, I cannot see them on the site. Thanks

  • Comment number 27.

    The question is the cosmology section about why light is affected by gravity could have done with with more discussion. The key issue is the conception of a dynamic combined space-time from Einstein's General Relativity, as opposed to the classical Newtonian absolute and discrete notion of space and time. From Einstein, we understand that light does in fact always move in a straight line - but space is warped, by the presence of mass. I'm not a physicist (I'm an architect), so any clarifications from experts welcome...

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Chris,
    My name is John and I am a big fan of the Sky At Night and of Patrick and his works. I thoroughly enjoyed the 700th Edition and like all of the guests that were asked, I too have Patrick to blame for my love of the night sky. His book Guide To The Moon (1957) fired my interest and imagination and I have been hooked ever since. It also began my collection of all things Patrick!! I now have well over 100 books written by Patrick as well as music CDs,DVDs, CDROMs, Maps, First Day Stamp covers, Photo's, signed keyrings and I even have a Mars Map Mug!! So Patrick has been a big part of my life and a most enjoyable past at that!
    Here's to the next 700 with yourself, Patrick, Pete,Paul and all the guests to come. I havn't missed a Sky At Night in 29 years and I won't miss one in the next 29!

  • Comment number 29.

    Like many others who follow the hobby I was tremendously influenced by Sir Patrick as a child. I attended a lecture he gave at the Greenwich Planetarium in the late 60's/ early 70's and it was his ability as a communicator that held me. I genuinely wanted to learn more. I was surprised that Brian Cox's first book was the same as mine Patrick's Observers Book of Stars and Planets. Forty years on and I'm still looking up and asking what's that and why? Sir Patrick and the programme are both "one offs" and I wish them both the very best and my heartfelt thanks.

  • Comment number 30.

    About 30 years ago a group of us went to Barbados to celebrate the new year. I sat on the beech each night and watched the sunset produce a green flash. The others could not see it, did not believe me and acused me of being crackers. I wrote to Sir Patrick and he sent me a postcard telling us all about the green flash. What a great programme last night.

  • Comment number 31.

    Thanks all for the kind comments; I'll make sure Patrick sees them too. Hopefully tonight's BBC4 edition (which runs to a full hour) might satisfy your hunger for further questions, and I'll talk to the team about getting the extras up onto the website soon too. The original 'keep anything that's vaguely coherent' edit ran to something like 2 and a half hours, so there's plenty there.

    @13 - Time doesn't stand still in black holes! If we watched an astronaut falling in, we'd see their watch running slowly. The astronaut, though, would see time ticking onwards as before.

    @27 - I agree with your description, although Newtonian physics can happily accomodate bending light.

  • Comment number 32.

    As some one who can remember this program from when television sets were steam powered, to me the most amazing thing was in 1981 to go up to the Mount Wilson Observatory, in California, and realise that the comentary was being spoken by our own (Sir) Patrick Moore!
    Best Regards for LOTS more Moore,
    Andrew Lothian.
    p.s.Would Richard Sloan please enlighten us as to what he saw and the explanation.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Could you clarify what Dr Brian Cox was saying about time and distance. I think it was "for light itself, the distance between any two locations is nothing" - this is true? I think it is, but would like a clarification please.

  • Comment number 35.

    Superb programme, please pass on most hearty congratulations to everyone involved, especially Sir Patrick, on reaching the 700th episode.
    The freewheeling discussion when the team started to talk about extra dimensions was fascinating, and seemed to be over far too soon. Perfect, thought provoking, stimulating and engrossing television and shows what can be done, thank you!

  • Comment number 36.

    Congratulations Sir Patrick, you were brilliant, here's to many more. In the main a brilliant programme but, Oh! What is the point of John Culshaw. Why on earth do you need a soundalike Patrick when you've got the real thing??? I pressed the mute button each time he did his impressions. What is it about impressionists that they have difficulty being themselves and, if they can't leave their impressions behind, DON'T put them on serious programmes. Listen BBC 4 - how dare you dumb down genius. Will they listen ? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Chris,
    I have just caught the end of the hour long 700th Edition and thoroughly enjoyed it. I shall be watching it again later via iPlayer as I missed the first part. Please can you thank Sir Patrick for giving us many years of sky-watching enjoyment (weather permitting of course). Secondly, we have a new telescope shop that has just opened in our village (called Telescope House), so we are looking for one to buy. Can he possibly recommend a good beginner to intermediate telescope for my son? Also, can he recommend where in Surrey/Sussex would be the best place to view the night sky? Thanks again for the brilliant show and looking forward very much to all the ones yet to come.
    Best regards, Ross.

  • Comment number 38.

    TV at its best.

  • Comment number 39.

    Fantastic programme, watched it since a young child. In this episode I personaly disagree with the take on the expanding universe. I believe it will continue to expand until emitted energies are less than the attractants such as gravity. At this point I believe the universe will begin to contract at increasing super high speeds resulting in a new big bang from which the universe will be reborn. A super massive example of energy never dying but transforming and renewing.

  • Comment number 40.

    hello all I enjoyed the programme having been a amature astronomer for many years and loving Patricks style for so long to. However I am once again dumbfounded that the show which purportes to be enlightened can once skip all notion of our God in the mix? Please BBC God is not a dirty world and all the stars are his work too

  • Comment number 41.

    @34. Yeah what he said.

  • Comment number 42.

    I post this as someone with no knowledge of astronomy but an interest in the stars, etc, and I have to say that I found this programme such an enjoyable thing to watch, full of warmth and respect towards the legend that is, Sir Patrick Moore. The knowledge this man has built up over the years through his many journals, books, etc as well as stored in his head is staggering. And as well as the knowledge, is the unbounding enthusiasm for his subject. All the assembled experts, added their own level of expertise to the proceedings. Unlike certain posters, I particularly enjoyed Jon Culshaws contribution to the proceedings, and putting across the viewpoint of the ordinary viewer as it were. His impression of the younger Sir Patrick, talking to his present day self was done with great aplomb, and having met Mr Culshaw, feel that Jon showed great respect towards Sir Patrick who looked like he was enjoying it too. Finally I loved the comment made by the Astronomer Royal, Prof Martin Rees, about (Dr) Brian May resembling a present day Sir Issac Newton!! In fact I was so inspired, I have since gone out and bought Sir Patricks autobiography!

  • Comment number 43.

    What a brilliant programme (all of them). Forget the phrase "much loved" substitute with - "the much admired Patrick Moore"- it's far more meaningful.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Patrick. Brilliant programme, so glad I caught it. My life would be less than it is if it were not for the aspects of our existence that a knowledge of cosmology has given me - and that life-enriching capability is due to you Patrick, so thanks for all you have done for me, and no doubt, countless others. You are at true hero of my time.

  • Comment number 45.

    Patrick, you are quite simply a national treasure. I am one of many who has grown up watching you on Sky and Night. Chris, you are wonderful too! Well done on the 700th episode and long may the programme continue.

  • Comment number 46.

    700 not out indeed, what a majestic programme it was, one of the best the BBC has ever made. Congratulations to Sir Patrick, all the presenters and the production team in producing a masterful and inspirational event, it was absolutely first class.

  • Comment number 47.

    Congratukations to Sir Patrick on the 700th programme. He certainly surrounded himself with a 'galaxy of stars' for the programme.

    I am skeptical about the moon landings. Why can we not see the Moonrover vehicle or launch platform through modern powerful telescopes? Was the moon landing faked and filmed by S.K on a London Studio set?

  • Comment number 48.

    In answer to no. 47, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter did photograph several Apollo landing sites in July 2009. Here's the NASA link:


  • Comment number 49.

    The Sky At Night is an absolute gem - if I had to choose one television programme to watch from the entirety of all tv listings, this would be it without question. The Sky At Night is a bright and shining star that shines out from the darkness of modern commercial television. Thank you Patrick, for it has been your kind and accessible form of presentation which has guaranteed this wonderful show's longevity. And also, may Chris Lintott help continue to carry the torch for many a year to come!

  • Comment number 50.

    One apparent paradox was aluded to in the 700th programme, in connection with the moon originally forming close to the earth and as energy was lost (due to tides, etc) the moon progressively moved further away from the earth (and its rotation became fixed to its orbit time). For man-made satellites, such as the Space Station, when they slow down as a consequence of resistance caused by the vanishingly thin atmosphere they move inwards towards the earth (and would eventually return to earth) instead of moving outwards when they slow down, like the moon. Can someone explain this difference in behaviour, please?

  • Comment number 51.

    Does anyone have any idea as to how many previous episodes of The Sky at Night are still existance or archived by the BBC? It would be fascinating to see all of these again and to see the way in which understanding has altered over that time.

  • Comment number 52.

    I would love dearly to know if BBC 4 are going to repeat the extended version anytime soon, I'm rather distressed to discover that the download from iplayer isn't permenant and is about to expire and so all I can do is wait for a BBC4 repeat.

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi Chris, I thoroughly enjoyed all the discussions on all the topics but one in particular between Brian C and Alan F concerning planetary migration made me curious. Surely If gas giants forming in the cold depths of the solar system migrated inwards, the hydrogen would change from liquid into gas. Would there not be a consequential loss of mass as gas dissipated into space. By the way, Heaven? definitely a planet but not in this solar system. Rather a planet orbiting a star in a globular cluster about the milky way where...."A still more glorious dawn awaits not a sunrise but a galaxyrise, (is it OK to make that one word?) a morning filled with 400 billion suns, the rising of the Milkyway." (God Bless the marriage of youtube and Carl Sagan). Best regards and continued success.

    Just as a post script , a small personal testimony to Patrick's influence and encouragement, during my O'level studies I wrote to Patrick on two separate occasions about project work and career advice. Each time he responded within days.

  • Comment number 54.

    The Sky at Night is the heavenly body of our TV schedules. Dependably constant in its monthly appearance it shines all the brighter for being away from the smog of earlier programmes. It twinkles now as beautifully as it did when I watched it as a child holding my book on the moon landings written by the wonderful man who presents it. Sane and magical, homely and awe inspiring, friendly and technical, humorous and serious....may its spectra continue its enchantment upon our upturned gaze for many years to come.

  • Comment number 55.

    I now realise I should make an amendment to my last comment....it's not the temperature that keeps hydrogen liquid in the interiors of the gas giants but the sheer pressure of the weight of the outer layers. Having said that the increase in temperature to the outer gaseous layers for an inwardly migrating giant would surely have an effect on mass retention. OK I think I'm done....for now.

    Not quite. I've just remembered another one of Patrick's influential books as a youngster, it was "Astronomy for O'level". Since I undertook it on my own without a tutor to guide me it was ultimately Patrick who steered me through it, so I have him to thank for passing it.

  • Comment number 56.

    At the risk of outstaying my welcome, (Sorry Chris if you're reading this and groaning "not you again") I had to laugh out loud and clap when Brian C produced his Observer's Book Of Astronomy. My copy resides beside me on my easel (a talent it and it alone has among books given its size) where I can conveniently reference the plate of the full moon, and other celestial objects, when I paint nightscapes or astronomical scenes. Needless to say it's still serving me well after all these years. It would be a shameless act of self promotion to say I've posted some photos of the paintings on the Sky at Night Flickr page, wouldn't it?

  • Comment number 57.

    "My school had an observatory..."

    -Guessing it wasn't a bog standard comprehensive then.... I always will think of Patrick as the GamesMaster....

  • Comment number 58.

    I have enjoyed 'The Sky at Night' since a child and like many others have taken up astronomy as an interest because of it. I enjoy the informative views of the presenters and guests all led by Sir Patrick's enthusiasm, knowledge and skill as a presenter. However, is it not time for the BBC to show some backing for this world renowned programme? The BBC could start off by giving it sensible time slots i.e the same dates and time every month. Also, please remember that if the 'Sky at Night' is on late in an evening many interested viewers could be out observing. Come BBC make sure we do get the next 700 editions at sensible times.

  • Comment number 59.

    @Paul DSilva - On BBC4, The Sky at Night does have a regular slot of the first Monday of the Month at 7.30pm

  • Comment number 60.

    @Graham - Well, the BBC¤ extended edition is on the Monday following the first Sunday of the month (i.e., if the month starts on Monday, the repeat is on the 8th of the month). However, it has been on the Tuesday recently....

  • Comment number 61.

    BTW, if you try to watch the extended BBC4 repeat on iPlayer, you may only get the short BBC1 version. The extended 700th programme was 50% longer than the original, with a lot of additional questions answered. Those who watched the BBC1 (repeated on BBC2) really lost out!

  • Comment number 62.

    Happy 88th Birthday to Sir Patrick from Trevor, Julia, Hayley, Sophie and Michael.


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