Sunday, 9 December 2012

RIP Sir Patrick Moore

Casting my mind back to a inky black Scottish night, a myopic twelve year old self is trying to train a heavy and ancient pair of binoculars on Rigel, after using the belt of Orion to get his bearings. He's given up on squinting really hard at the blackness around Sirius A for a glimpse of its faint twin. He knows this is an impossibility, but nevertheless, maybe tonight...

Eventually, my interest in astronomy tailed off, along with an alarmingly thorough loss of nearly everything I learnt along the way. One thing stayed as fixed as those stars (which I have had to look up on google's Sky Map app to now locate); a warm affection for the Sky at Night, and specifically its presenter Sir Patrick Moore, in whom that twelve year old self had noted a new category of adult educator, whose authority is not inferred from bellowing orders, but rather an affable and infectious enthusiasm for the subject at hand.

So it was with great fondness I watched the Sky at Night on BBC4 on Thursday night, and with a twelve year old's pang of unreserved despair read today of Sir Patrick Moore's passing. What dignity he had in the face of the ill health of advancing years. What tireless dedication to his field, presenting the cosmos to our television screens pretty much continuously since the 1950's - a true amateur in the old sense of the word. What a loss.

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