The Sky at Night is a monthly television programme on astronomy produced by the BBC. The show has had the same permanent presenter, Sir Patrick Moore, from its first airing on 24 April 1957, making it one of the longest-running programmes with the same presenter in television history.
The programme's initial and closing theme music is At the Castle Gate, from the incidental music to Pelléas et Mélisande by Jean Sibelius.
The programme covers a wide range of general astronomical and space-related topics. In the past, general topics have included stellar life cycles
, radio astronomy
, artificial satellites
, black holes
, neutron stars
and many others. The programme also covers what is happening in the night sky at the time it is being broadcast, especially when something less common, such as a comet
or a meteor shower
, is present.
Explaining the show's enduring appeal, Moore said: "Astronomy's a fascinating subject. You look up... you can't help getting interested and it's there. We've tried to bring it to the people.. it's not me, it's the appeal of the subject.
Many of the world's leading astronomers have appeared on the show through the years, including Harlow Shapley
, who was the first to measure the size of the Milky Way galaxy
, Fred Hoyle
and Carl Sagan
. Other guests have included Astronomer Royal
Sir Martin Rees
, astronomer Heather Couper
, and Open University
professors John Zarnecki
, Monica Grady
and Colin Pillinger
In July 2004, Moore was unable to make the broadcast due to a severe bout of Salmonellosis. He was replaced for this one occasion by the cosmologist Chris Lintott of Oxford University, but returned for the August programme. This is the only occasion in 50 years that Moore has not hosted the programme.
Brian May (of Queen fame), a Ph.D. in Astrophysics , is a guest on the show from time to time.
On 1 April 2007, Sir Patrick presented the 50th Anniversary edition of the show, a special "time travel" edition which included the appearance of Jon Culshaw.
The International Astronomical Union
celebrated the 50th anniversary of the show by naming asteroid 57424 Caelumnoctu
(the number referring to the first broadcast date and the name being Latin for "The Sky at Night").
In February 2007 the Royal Mail issued a set of six astronomy stamps to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the programme.
In the Guiness Book of World Records, Patrick Moore is listed as the most prolific presenter in the world, having hosted all but one episode of the Sky at Night since 1957.