Obituary: Patrick Moore

by philapilus
NGC 6934

“Jesus Christ! There’s bloody loads of them!” Sir Patrick exclaimed, on his first look through a telescope in 1712

Astronomer and TV presenter Patrick Moore passed away today at his home surrounded by family and friends. He will be sorely missed by the public, and will be remembered for his books and for The Sky at Night, a programme he broadcast for decades.

Moore began his career as court astronomer to the queen, and was described as one of Elizabeth’s favourites, following her accession after the death of Mary Queen of Scots. He spent much of the 16th and 17th centuries doing the research for an early version of ‘ye Skye at ye Nite’, which he presented through a loudhailer on the streets of London, with an accompanying parchment, sold for a turnip or two carrots.

Moore was able to produce the most systematic picture of the universe then possible, and was able to name both planets and all forty nine of the stars that were visible to the naked eye. He is also thought to have been a pioneer in the development of optical devices for astronomy, he was for example the first person to climb up a ladder and look at the night sky through a hollow stick.

As the leading authority on the universe, Moore postulated several important theories about the origins of our world and of the galaxy. He pioneered the theory that the night sky was a very, very large piece of black velvet, and also was the originator of the extremely successful idea that the Earth rested on top of a tower which God built out of the used harps of angels. This notion was to hold sway until the 18th century.

When radio was invented in the 19th century, Moore – now Sir Patrick – was at first terrified of what he called “the box possessed by a devil”, but he soon came to accept it, just as he had with wax cylinder recordings, and a broadcasting legend was born. He spent the 20th century reporting on the rapidly changing knowledge of the universe, and his audience were always amused by his complete shock as new planets, stars, and galaxies were discovered.

His most famous broadcast was made in 1999, when he admitted that he had changed his mind and that the world probably was more than 6000 years old, and that stars were actually likely to be a lot bigger than they looked, but were just a really long way off.

Reports that Brian Cox was seen running away from Moore’s house in the early hours of this morning, holding a big earthenware jug with a skull and crossbones painted on the side, remain unconfirmed.

RIP Sir Patrick Moore who died on 9th December, 2012

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