Sir Patrick Moore   

 

4 March 1923 - 9 December 2012

An amateur astronomer who inspired millions

Here are some recollections of a unique man.

You can hear my interview on BBC 3 Counties Radio about the future of "The Sky At Night" here.

Patrick Moore was born in Pinner in 1923, and as a young boy was given a book on astronomy by his mother. This sparked a lifetime interest in astronomy, and he grew to become the most famous promoter of the subject in the world.

I knew Patrick, having met him on various occasions, the last time in July this year.

Patrick was always approachable, with never a trace of self-importance, despite his fame. In fact he would often point out that he was "only an amateur". This was true with respect to his astronomical work - he earned his living as a writer and broadcaster - yet no-one would doubt that he was one of the foremost experts in the field of astronomy.

I believe that one reason he emphasised being an amateur astronomer was to encourage people to take up astronomy. He was effectively saying; "If I am only an amateur, then anyone else can do what I do."

Despite not being a professional, his maps of the Moon were of such a high standard that they were used by NASA when planning their Moon landings.

Patrick at his home in Selsey.

The BBC TV Apollo team - Patrick with Cliff Michelmore and James Burke

Patrick's thatched house in Selsey is called "Farthings". The last time I was there was this summer, and I asked him about the name, pointing out how appropriate it was for an astronomer, as "Far things"! He said that it was simply a coincidence, as the house already had that name when he bought it.

The occasion in July was the second "Patrick's Picnic", when around 100 members of the British Interplanetary Society gathered at Farthings for the day. We had arranged for a marquee in the garden, which would not only provide shelter in case it rained (it didn't) but also act as a location for some entertainment for the visitors. I presented some strange-but-true stories about the history of space exploration from my collection' "The Day They Launched A Woodpecker". Mat Irvine, who had provided visual effects on the Sky At Night as well as his excellent models of various spacecraft, talked about his experiences and Stuart Eves ran a light-hearted space quiz.

With Patrick in 2011, after he had signed my copy of "The Boys' Book of Space"!

With Patrick in July 2012. Note his excellent space-themed shirt!

Another picture from the 2012 picnic.
This is my copy of "Patrick Moore's Astronomy Game"

Patrick addressing the visitors

I am the founder of the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards, and in 2005, Patrick won an award with David Hardy for their book; "Futures - 50 Years In Space".

Patrick wasn't able to attend the awards ceremony, so I presented him with his "Arthur" at his home.

2007 marked 50 years of The Sky At Night.

The programme won that year's Arthur for Best TV or Radio Presentation, and Patrick won the Inspiration Award.

 

I presented the 2007 awards at a special 50th anniversary event held in Patrick's garden. When I gave Patrick with his award, he asked;"Why me?", to which I replied; "If you don't know by now ..."!

Back in March, 1976, I was in hospital to have my appendix removed. A few days later I was lying in bed in the ward listening to the radio, when Patrick was introduced. He told listeners that an extremely rare alignment of the planets was taking place and this was going to have a gravitational effect on us here on Earth. He said the result was that if people tried jumped up, they would find themselves being able to jump higher than usual.

I immediately realised that not only was there no planetary alignment, but even if there was, there would be no such gravitational effect, and the whole thing was a stunt for April Fool's day. However, the studio received a call which was apparently from a group of old ladies who were having tea together. One of them had tried jumping and had nearly hit her head on the ceiling! I was rolling in laughter, trying not to burst my stitches!

 

One Small Step

Patrick with his copy of my book.

One Small Step

"One Small Step" is my book commemorating the first Men on the Moon.

It is presented as the scrap-book of a young space enthusiast whose grandfather worked in Mission Control during the Moon landings.

It's full of pictures, flaps to lift and things to pull out.

Sir Patrick Moore said "It's marvellous!"

Click here for further details
 
If you are interested in arranging a presentation on space exploration,
or an exciting and inspiring day of space activities

contact me at jstone@spaceflight-uk.com
 

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