Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 10 December - Inspirational astronomer dies, aged 89

Sir Patrick Moore, the popular astronomer and broadcaster, has died aged 89.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 10 December

Inspirational astronomer dies, aged 89

Sir Patrick Moore, the popular astronomer and broadcaster, has died aged 89.

For more than 40 years, Sir Patrick presented the popular BBC programme The Sky At Night, which was loved by professional and novice stargazers alike. The programme’s success was often attributed to Sir Patrick’s ability to present astronomy in a scientific yet accessible way.

He inspired a number of scientists to follow their love of astronomy, among them physicist Brian Cox, who said that Sir Patrick had “helped inspire my love of astronomy”.

Despite being considered a leading expert on astronomy, Sir Patrick was an amateur astronomer rather than an academic, having given up a place at Cambridge in favour of joining the Royal Air Force during WWII.

His passion for astronomy was just one aspect of an extraordinary life, which ranged from navigating bombers during the Second World War to meeting some of the world’s most amazing people. He was, he believed, the only person to have met three key people in the history of aviation and space travel; the first man to fly, Orville Wright, the first man in space, Russian Yuri Gagarin and the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.

Such was his reputation on astronomy that Sir Patrick was chosen to commentate on the first Moon landings for the BBC in 1969. "We'll hear the voices of the first men to land on the Moon in 20 seconds,” he told viewers. “This is one of the great moments in human history.” And at that moment, to his enormous frustration, they switched over to Jackanory.

Another extraordinary chapter in his life was the period when he got to know Albert Einstein. He said of him: “He was an interesting man: totally unworldly. He was a violin player and I accompanied him playing Saint-Saens’ ‘Swan’. I wish I had a tape of it.”

Sir Patrick kept working until the end, presenting an edition of The Sky At Night only a few weeks ago.

Patrick Caldwell Moore
March 4, 1923: born

1929: his interest in astronomy was fired when he read a book called A Guide To The Solar System, published in 1898.

1931: he was given a 1908 typewriter on which all of his 170 books were written.

1933: he was nominated as a member of the British Astronomical Association - the youngest ever member at age 11.

1935: he published his first article, on small craters in the Moon, at the age of 13.

1940-45: aged 16, he joined the RAF during World War 2, in which he served as a navigator in bombers. He lied about his age to join up.

1956: he started presenting The Sky At Night on the BBC.

1969:commentated for the BBC on the moon landings.

1970: published book, The Atlas Of The Universe, complete with magnificent and bold illustrations of planets and star clusters. The book went on to become a bestseller

2001: knighted in the New Year’s honours list “for services to the popularisation of science and to broadcasting”.

2004: aged 81, he “nearly dies” after a severe bout of food poisoning caused, he believed, by a duck’s egg he had eaten.

2007: presented a special 50th anniversary episode of the show from his back garden with special guests including Queen guitarist Brian May.

2012: Sir Patrick presented his last The Sky At Night. He died on 9 December.


  • Who inspires you and why?
  • Sir Patrick Moore achieved many things in his lifetime. What would you most like to do in your lifetime?
  • How important is it to pursue interests that you feel passionately about? What are your passions, and how do you pursue them?
  • Sir Patrick Moore lived through historical events such as the Moon landing and WWII. Of the events that have occured in your lifetime, which do you think people will talk about for years to come?

Related resources

The Astronomy Masterclass

  • A fabulous, interactive masterclass in astronomy broken down into six lessons.


  • The astronomy section of the VideoJug website, recommended by TESResources, includes an interview with Sir Patrick Moore on astronomy and space exploration.

Science and Astronomy quotes and posters

  • An inspiring collection of quotes and posters on science and astronomy from Aristotle and Galileo to Newton and Hawking.

Stars and the Moon

  • Help your pupils make a simple telescope to study the stars and find out how to identify their constellations with this great lesson plan and activity.

Further news resources

First News front page

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Write all about it

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What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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