Britain’s legendary Sir Patrick Moore dies at age 89

The astronomy popularizer was synonymous with the wonders of the cosmos.
By | Published: December 10, 2012 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Sir Patrick Moore
BBC Photo Archive
Sir Patrick Moore, longtime host of the BBC’s The Sky at Night, passed away at his home in Selsey, England, Sunday, December 9. According to a statement from friends and colleagues, “After a short spell in [the] 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 … passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy.”

Moore was a self-taught astronomy enthusiast who got his start writing about the Moon in 1953. He transitioned to TV in 1957 when the BBC decided to make an astronomy program and contacted Moore to be the presenter. The Sky at Night has since become the longest-running television program in the world, the latest episode appearing with Moore only a week ago. He was knighted in 2001 for “services to the popularisation [sic] of science and to broadcasting.”

“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,” the statement continues. “He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV programme [sic] The Sky at Night right up until the most recent episode.”

Moore’s career consists of dozens of books on astronomy and more than 700 episodes on TV. He didn’t miss an episode of The Sky at Night until being hit by a bout of food poisoning in July 2004. And the program simply adjusted as Moore aged, shooting as his home after he was confined to a wheelchair. Moore is also known for his Caldwell Catalog, which he compiled in 1995 to fill in the missing bright deep-sky objects from Charles Messier’s famous list. 

Moore had a humble opinion of his career and the number of people he influenced, as he told journalist Stuart Clark this past summer in a story for Astronomy magazine. “I don’t inspire them,” Moore said. “It’s the subject. I just happen to be there. I’m surprised at the way the audience has held up; more than a million people still watch us every month. I’ve made a lot of friends.” (Read the full story from that interview in PDF format below.)

A farewell event for Moore is being planned for March 2013, which would have been his 90th birthday.

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