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article imageThe Sky at Night: Patrick Moore’s legacy to continue

By Mathew Wace Peck     Nov 4, 2013 in Science
Fears that the BBC were to cancel the long-running astronomy series, “The Sky at Night” — presented by Sir Patrick Moore for 55 years, until his death in 2012 — have been quashed with the announcement that it will move to a new home on BBC Four.
Following Moore’s death last December, the series was given a reprieve and has continued without him, presented by Dr Chris Lintott, who had worked alongside the amateur astronomer for many years.
However, it emerged some weeks ago that the BBC were considering the programme’s future, which led to a viewer-led online campaign to try to secure its long-term future at the BBC.
A petition, signed by tens of thousands of people, formed part of the campaign, which garnered support from the likes of Queen band member Brian May and impressionist Jon Culshaw.
Dr Brian May — a very close friend of Moore — revealed recently that the amount of money the BBC pays for just one episode of another astronomy show — the occasional live series, Stargazing LIVE — would pay for a whole year of The Sky at Night.
While The Sky at Night has been on air since the late 1950s, Stargazing LIVE began just three years ago. It has been broadcast each January — in 2011, 2012 and 2013 — each season consisting of three instalments over three consecutive nights.
An amateur astronomer himself, May appeared on Stagazing Live in 2012, while, over the years, he has been an on-and-off guest over the years on Moore’s The Sky at Night. It was while appearing on last year’s Stagazing Live that the Queen guitarist found out the relative costs of the two shows.
Revealing the information on Twitter, May wrote, “I guested on Stargazing Live and I learned that the budget for just 1 night of SG would pay for 1 WHOLE YEAR of S@N. What does that say?”
“Rocket Salad to Mars”
Viewing figures for the show have always been consistently good, which further perplexed its supporters. Interviewed in a recent Radio Times, Culshaw said, “It’s really rather irritating […] There shouldn’t be any hesitation around a programme like this. It’s not rocket salad.”
Currently a programme on BBC One, for many years The Sky at Night has been consigned to a late-night 20-minute slot, with a slightly-extended-version repeat on BBC Four. However, from the New Year, BBC Four will become its permanent home. Along with the move, the programme will be given a full 30-minute slot and will receive a regular repeat on BBC Two. As it has always been, The Sky at Night will be broadcast once a month.
According to the Guardian, the programme will take a rest in January 2014, the gap filled by BBC Two’s, Stargazing LIVE, which will be presented once again by the physicist-come-TV personality Professor Brian Cox and the comedian Dara O Briain (Mock the Week). The Sky at Night will then return to TV screens in February.
First screened in 1957, the only other BBC programme older than The Sky at Night is its current-affairs show, Panorama, which began in 1953. However, up till Moore’s death, The Sky at Night held the record for being the only programme still fronted by its original presenter. More than that, of the 722 episodes broadcast during that time, Moore missed just one, in 200?, when he was struck down by food poisoning.
In January 2013, as a tribute to Sir Patrick Moore, BBC Four turned over its evening schedules for Patrick Moore Night.
November's The Sky at Night highlights the Moore Moon Marathon.
More about Patrick moore, sir patrick moore, The Sky at Night, Brian may, Jon Culshaw
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