FEATURE: Brian May on “The Sky At Night” – 4 July 1999


!!! The Bri At Night !!!

Brian and Sir Patrick Moore 1999
Brian and Sir Patrick Moore 1999


“Way ‘cross time and space”

***Brian On “The Sky At Night”

The Sky At Night
BBC1 1.24 pm Sunday 4 July 1999



BBC1, 11.25 pm

Queen guitarist and ‘highly-qualified astronomer’ Brian May joins Patrick Moore to discuss the forthcoming total solar eclipse on 11 August 1999.

Moore and May – what a double act. Truly fascinating. I am sure if Brian had been my teacher, I’d have passed all my exams!!!!

He was wearing that blue Sun zodiac print shirt – the one Jamie wore at Chiddingfold and Brian wore it at Wolverhampton – I understand that there may only be one shirt – and it belongs to “Wardrobe”.

He said that his love of Astronomy dates back from when he was about 10 and watching/listening to Sir Patrick’s Sky At Night programme (and its music) as a youngster – and that he now pursues music and astronomy in about equal parts these days, although he considers himself an amateur astronmomer.

Various photos were shown, some of which were Brian’s own, and some from NASA and various agencies. Sir Patrick asked him about other eclipses he had been to – he had attempted 5 but acheieved 4 – the other one was in Mongolia I think, but our Superhero (Brian) had been beaten back by a snowstorm!!!!

Brian showed and explained various diagrams and ran computer simulations – “and if I press this button here……….”The line of total eclipse was shown and Penzance/Truro/Falmouth will get about 2 minutes totality, but Torquay only about 10 seconds. He said a lot of people had booked to to to Paris, but the path of the eclipse showed they will miss out and he said that Paris was definitely not the place to be. “Don’t go to Paris.”

The pair discussed protective eyewear, and Brian showed what he would be wearing – (I had hoped he would model the ‘cardboard’ spectacles (looked rather like those 3-D ones you get free in comics!!!) They gave lots of safety advice – which boiled down to advice about viewing – and as far as viewing with the naken eye or directly through a telescope the advice was -“DON’T.”

They advised using aluminised Mylar filters, with a CE mark, which conform to a European standard. But even these should be checked for pinholes or scratches. Brian’s protective ‘glasses’ are of a sort that do not scratch, so we need not worry about his safety.

Brian talked through what will happen and what will be visible at each stage, and that at the moment of totality, if you look at your feet it is rather like looking down into a swimming pool, as you will be really standing at the bottom of an pool of air. He explained that strange things that happen to shadows and strange animal behaviour – “The birds decide its time to go to sleep.”

He said he would be viewing the eclipse “my friend Roger’s house” in Cornwall, and Sir Patrick said that he would be at an observatory in Falmouth.

They advised that you should have all your gear set up and ready and not to fiddle with the settings on your camera, as you would not have time. And please, NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!! (“You will get some very angry astronomers next to you.”) However, all that preparation could be to no avail if it is overcast – you would certainly notice that it would get a little bit darker, and the drop in temperature, but would have to rely on seeing pictures of it taken elsewhere.


Further details WERE AT THE TIME to be found on Ceefax page 620 (BBC1) and on http://www.bbc.co.uk/skyatnight/

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