The famed British astronomer and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore has died, aged 89. In a statement released by his friends and colleagues, he is said to have “passed away peacefully at 12:25 BST this afternoon” at his home in Selsey, West Sussex. The astronomer presented the BBC programme The Sky At Night for over 50 years, which made him the longest-running host of the same television show ever. Sir Patrick was renowned for his love of astronomy and wrote many books on the subject, with his research being used by the US and the Russians in their space programmes.
His friends and staff members said: “After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home, Farthings, where he today passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy. Over the past few years, Patrick, an inspiration to generations of astronomers, fought his way back from many serious spells of illness and continued to work and write at a great rate, but this time his body was too weak to overcome the infection which set in, a few weeks ago.”
Although Sir Patrick had been ill for some time, he managed to continue to film his BBC programme until the very last episode: “He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV programme The Sky at Night right up until the most recent episode. His executors and close friends plan to fulfil his wishes for a quiet ceremony of interment, but a farewell event is planned for what would have been Patrick’s 90th birthday in March 2013.”
Born at Pinner, Middlesex on 4 Mar 1923, he spent much of his childhood being home educated due to a heart condition, but this meant he became an avid reader. His mother gave him a copy of GF Chambers’ book, The Story of the Solar System, and so began a lifelong passion for astronomy. He turned down a place at Cambridge and lied about his age to join the RAF during the Second World War, and served as a navigator with Bomber Command, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Unfortunately, his fiancee Lorna was killed when an ambulance she was driving was hit by a bomb. He never married.
Tributes are already coming in from people all over the world who have been inspired by Sir Patrick to take an interest in astronomy. Queen guitarist Brian May, who wrote and published a book on astronomy with Sir Patrick, called him as a “dear friend, and a kind of father figure to me”.
He added: “Patrick will be mourned by the many to whom he was a caring uncle, and by all who loved the delightful wit and clarity of his writings, or enjoyed his fearlessly eccentric persona in public life. Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one.”
Whilst British space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock said that Sir Patrick inspired her to “look at the night sky”. She said: “Through his regular monthly programmes he was telling us what to look for and what was out there and that was a real inspiration. Why [The Sky At Night] was so successful is because of his passion. He branched an amazing era, he was broadcasting before we actually went into space and so he saw a change in our understanding of the universe and he took us all the way through that, right up to today.”
Professor Brian Cox led the tributes on Twitter saying: “Very sad news about Sir Patrick. Helped inspire my love of astronomy. I will miss him!”
Source: BBC News