Archive for April 2nd, 2007

Happy 50th, The Sky At Night

The Sky at Night is celebrating its 50th year on television, in all but one case presented by Sir Patrick Moore (caused by food poisoning by a rogue duck egg).

This low-budget monthly programme has introduced millions of people to the wonders of astronomy, the only ‘big’ science in which amateurs still play a major role, and I’m a huge fan.

Back as a callow youth, I basically thought I had three career paths in front of me, electronics, computers or astronomy; in the end computing won but I’m still hugely interested in astronomy (and all science in general). I don’t, however, own a telescope for the simple reason I live in a severely light-polluted town and I’d be lucky to see the moon let alone anything fainter. However I still try to see as many episodes as I can, even given the frequently-absurd times they are shown (they have been edging closer to 2am recently).

I cannot understate the importance Sir Patrick plays in both the show and my continued interest in it, although he decries that it’s the interesting material that keeps people viewing – in part he’s perfectly correct – but I also admire the man personally. He’s one of the few remaining great British eccentrics but he is also knowledgeable, witty, self-effacing and curmudgeonly, and, let’s face it, he’s presented a monthly show for 50 years that has covered every astronomical subject imaginable, and still has far more to cover.

He is no longer a young man, but his mind is as quick as ever, and I’m proud to come out and say he’s one of my personal heroes, and although their numbers are dwindling, their influence will survive them for decades (and more!) to come.

So, happy 50th year, Sir Patrick and The Sky At Night.

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April 2nd, 2007


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