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Sir Patrick Moore: Astronomer, Broadcaster and Eccentric
ABOUT THIS PROGRAMME
CAST AND CREW
For half a century Sir Patrick Moore turned the eyes of budding
For text - see Brian's full tribute SOAPBOX- largely the same with a few omissions below
For many years Patrick has been a dear friend and a kind of father figure to me. I am going to miss him terribly, as are all his close friends and colleagues; and the world has lost a treasure that can never be replaced.
Patrick was the last of a generation, a true gentleman, the most generous that I ever knew; an inspiration to thousands in his personal life and to millions through his 50 years of unique broadcasting. It's no exaggeration to say that Patrick, in his tireless and ebullient communication of the magic of astronomy, inspired every British astronomer, amateur and professional, for half a century.
Most astronomers I know will tell you Patrick is the reason they first looked through a telescope. Through his countless books and articles and TV appearances, he captured the adventure of the universe and brought it to us. He knew the universe in a way that will never be equalled. He did not just know the facts, it was as if he lived out there and knew it like the back of his hand. To the end of his life he was distilling new discoveries into channels which made them not just accessible to astronomers but also understandable to the general public – a rare gift, which he never tired of using to the full.
In his private life Patrick was astoundingly giving. His dedication to young aspiring astronomers was legendary. He replied to every letter, responded to questions, helped students with gifts of equipment and the most precious gift of all – his time. He personally tutored some he thought particularly promising, and sponsored others through higher education; he gave away any income he made to the point where he had no security himself except that which his friends supplied. He always insisted he was an amateur astronomer, but his contribution to pure research was considerable. He made the first finely detailed map of the moon's surface – consulted by the first astronauts to walk on the lunar surface. From the days before astrophotography was well developed, his notes and drawings from his thousands of hours of pure observations are now a valuable archive.
Patrick was a great caring human being, and campaigner for the rights and welfare of animals. His cats were the loves of his life and he was outspoken against cruelty of all kinds. Recently he spoke out against the government's proposed massacre of badgers.
Patrick had other talents. He was a lifelong devotee of cricket and an accomplished musician, playing both piano and xylophone in public with great success. He wrote science fiction, plays, spoof operas, and satirical commentaries on the foolishness of bureaucracy, under the assumed name of RT Fishall. He ribbed those who believed in flying saucers or astrology, but had an open mind as to whether intelligent life may exist elsewhere in the universe.
The honour he was most proud of was being made a Fellow of the Royal Society – the only amateur astronomer to achieve this distinction, but he was also made a knight in 2001.
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.
Brian May has set up a website where members of the public can leave personal tributes to the late Sir Patrick Moore at http://www.banguniverse.com/sirpatrickmoore.
Here are links to "The Present of Life" download - in aid of the Badger Trust- with hopes to be Christmas No 1 single. Please download and support - thanks.
THE PRESENT OF LIFE - Rapanui (ft David Attenborough)
Amazon - amazon.co.uk - (click links)
Brian was on BBC Breakfast (BBC1) this morning (8.45am) paying tribute to his friend, Sir Patrick Moore, who sadly died yesterday.
There will be a private interrment and a larger event to celebrate his life in March 2013, marking what would have been his 90th birthday,
Brian's personal tribute message HERE.
You can leave your own message on a Memorial site too - just fill out the form to be added - HERE
Here it is - the Born Free picture disc Brian promised - just go to the link and grab yourself one (or more) of these 1,000 lovely limited edition copies. Note: Disks will be despatched after 14 December.
Born Free Picture Disc
Order from Born Free HERE
WORDS TO GIVE BY
11 The Cosmic Tourist by Brian May, Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott. Carlton Books, £25
The latest book by popular astronomy's oldest boy band is a travel guide to the universe's spectacular destinations. It includes old favourites and new finds - such as Hanny's Voorwerp, a green gas cloud 650 million light years away spotted by a Dutch schoolteacher during a crowdsourced science project.
The legendary Dr Brian May of Queen fame tells us how he got involved with astronomy, and why he's still so passionate about the cosmos today...
Until a few years ago the name Brian May was not one that evoked thoughts of an astronomer gazing at the night sky. After Queen launched into superstardom status, with May as lead guitarist, the world of telescopes was put on the back burner as hit after hit topped the charts. Unbeknown to many, however, was May's love of astronomy that began even before be became one of the most famous guitarists in the world.
Sitting down with May at the launch of his new book, The Cosmic Tourist, co-authored with The Sky At Night presenters Sir Patrick Moore and Dr Chris Lintott, May revealed what first got him interested in astrophysics and astronomy:
"The answer is Patrick, completely Patrick. Single-handedly he inspired a whole generation, actually quite a few generations, that they can look up and outwards and start to wonder about the sky at night. That was me. I was entranced from about the age of eight or nine and it never left me."
May's admiration of Sir Patrick was apparent from the word go:
"I got one of [Sir Patrick's] books from the school library and read it from cover to cover many times, and I discovered I could actually see the man on TV. So I implored my parents to let me stay up and watch The Sky At Night and I was glued, absolutely glued to it, and have been ever since."
While Sir Patrick has been a major influence in May's life, he cites others as being a further cause of his early love for astronomy even before his Queen days, and indeed it was that motivation that led him into a degree in physics and maths at Imperial College, London, in the late Sixties. "The reason I did my physics degree at Imperial College was because I had astronomy in mind," said May. It was a radio astronomer by the name of John Shakeshaft that provided further inspiration for May after giving a lecture at his school, where "I collared him and said I wanted to be an astronomer, asked him how I'd do it, and he said to do physics at university."
After passing his Bachelor's degree, May progressed on to "'doing a postgraduate course for a PhD and project in the infrared astronomy department, although what I did was actually optical Doppler shift atronomy. What I was doing was looking at dust in the Solar System and the dynamics of it." It wasn't all plain sailing, however. "Somewhere along the line I got a little distracted with music!" joked May. Thirty years is quite a distraction but understandably May said he "wasn't sad" at dropping his PhD to join Queen.
On whether he maintained his interest in astronomy during his Queen days. May told us that "yes, I really did" but it was his thesis that provided the incentive to leave the PhD behind. "To be honest I came to a very sticky point in my thesis. I'd done three years of study and I'd written most of it up, and I'd also done an extra year supporting myself by teaching maths in a comprehensive school. So I did four years on the whole. I'd written it all up, done all the pictures and diagrams and index. Then my supervisor said it was really good but why don't I go back and do a little bit more here and there. To cut a long story short I just say I couldn't do it. I never got as far as submitting it to the authorities."
From there, May "put it to one side, thinking maybe one day" he'd return to it, but it wasn't until 30 years later that he unearthed his thesis "in about three different trunks in my loft" and came back to it. "It was Patrick again," May said. "I came to know Patrick not through astronomy but through a radio programme, and in this radio programme I did some music for it and became very good friends with Patrick. From time to time he'd ask me what happened to my PhD, and why don't I go and finish it off. I said to Patrick how could I possibly do that now, it's got too far away! And he said, 'no it hasn't, you could do it, why don't you do it?"
While May started to consider going back to finish what he'd started 30 years ago, he needed one last push to be tempted back into the world of academia after spending so long living as a rock star. "I started talking about it in the press because people started asking me for some reason," said May. "One of the articles was read by the head of astrophysics at the Imperial College at the time, Professor Rowan-Robinson, and he wrote me an email that was probably one of the biggest shocks of my life! It said, I've read the article [in the media], if you are serious about finishing off your PhD in astronomy I will be your supervisor. Come back to Imperial College and we will finish off your PhD."
It was a difficult decision for May, but in the end he said "it was an offer I couldn't refuse. But I had to throw up my life. I just ditch everything or a year, and I pretty much gave up three times because it was so difficult to pick up the threads [of my old thesis]."
We sensed, however, that despite all the hardship May was glad to go back and finish what he had started, "It was thrilling when I finally got that thing one," May admitted. "I cannot tell you what that feels like when you've been through all that stuff. The examiners were [bad] though, they were so hard on me, I don't know if they wanted to make an example of me! I had a real tough time with my external examiners but when I eventually did the corrections and took it back and they said okay, you can have your PhD, I was so thrilled because it was like fulfilling a circle that I'd always wanted to do."
It's safe to say that May's time with astronomy hasn't been straightforward one, but he told us he still practises astronomy and appears on The Sky At Night "occasionally" despite being "a bit busy". And he still retains the same passion or astronomy that he's always had: "Oh absolutely, yeah. It's to me endlessly stimulating and challenging, I love it."
For all his experiences, and especially considering his PhD, we asked May what he thought the best way for someone new to space and astronomy was to get involved with the field. "Well, I'm sure if they're reading your magazine they'll already be involved," he said. Magazines and books are aa great starting point, according to May, but for him it's the wonder of looking at the night sky that really instils the greatest feeling. "Find yourself a dark place, go outside, give your eyes about 20 minutes to become accustomed , which most people don't realise, and look up at the night sky and start there. Learn your wy around the constellations because it's magic, you'll learn your way around a land, a territory, which will be with you all your life, and you will see these seasons change time after time and your old friends will come back every year.
"It's the most spiritually empowering thing that I know," May continued, "to look up at the night sky and see Orion rising as the autumn closes in at the last moment, and it's got me through some very hard times. When I had a couple of serious bouts of depression in my life the stars were a big factor in pulling me out. People used to say 'what's your spirituality?' and I'd say I don't know, but I found out looking at the stars one night that that's what it was."
Having rekindled his love for astronomy, May is now actively involved in the field. As well as appearing on The Sky At Night from time to time he collaborates with Sir Patrick and Chris Lintott, including on their latest book, The Cosmic Tourist. May's Queen days may be over, but we can be sure his return to astronomy is only just beginning.
SEE BRIAN'S posting on SOAPBOX HERE
Op went well this morning and Brian's already on his feet. Thanks everyone for their wonderful messages and enjoyed the sympathy ones especially.
Brian goes for a knee operation early this morning...
I'm sure all readers would join in wishing him well and good luck with the op.
GET WELL SOON, BRI !!
Need those knees in good shape to rock!!
Sir David Attenborough has been enlisted by the producers of a charity single in the battle for the Christmas number one.
The Present of Life (Music Video Only) - http://youtu.be/ADzbkAyZbWw
The wildlife documentary maker appears in the video for the song, The Present of Life, which is being launched by BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham and is part of a campaign against plans for a badger cull. The video features Packham on drums and weather forecaster Michael Fish on guitar. Rob da Bank, the Radio 1 DJ, also appear in the clip. The song is produced by eco-friendly clothing firm Rapanui.
The single is being sold on iTunes from December 7 to raise money for the Badger Trust, which campaigns against badger culling.
Sir David Attenborough (Rex)
Sir David, 86, has previously spoken out against a badger cull, saying it could make the problem of cattle disease worse.
The purpose of the planned cull would be to control bovine tuberculosis. Farmers claim badgers spread the cattle disease and want permission to kill the protected woodland species.
But in an interview last year, Sir David said: "You may think culling [badgers] is the answer and it sounds easy to start with but it can very well make things much worse.
"At the moment TB is localised. If you kill all those badgers what happens then? Firstly those survivors will go out and carry the disease to areas that were hitherto unaffected. Other badgers slowly colonise and are infected themselves. There is good scientific research available to show culling badgers can make things worse not better."
Plans for the cull, due to have taken place this year, were postponed until 2013 after more badgers than anticipated were found in two areas selected for pilot trials, in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
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