I watched the latest episode of The Sky At Night only a week or so ago and he did look frail. It has been obvious for many years now that Chris Lintott was being lined up to take over the presentation duties but Patrick will be sorely missed.
He was one of Britsh TV’s glorious eccentrics – who else in the modern world wore a monocle? – and as well as his scientific credentials he could play a mean xylophone.
His long and productive life was overshadowed by sadness as his fiancée was killed during WW2 by a German bomb and he didn’t wish to settle for what he would have considered “second best.”
As a child I may have been aware of him as a late-night TV presenter (his record for continuously hosting a show will surely never be surpassed) but I certainly remember reading his Science Fiction – from that Children’s Section at Dumbarton Library accessed down the external stairs – where, along with the SF of Captain W E Johns (yes, the author of Biggles; whose WW1 adventures led me to other books coming from the same hands) I gained my introduction to the genre. Blame the pair of them.
Patrick must almost single-handedly have contributed to several generations of British astronomers taking up their trade and won a new set of admirers when he appeared on GamesMaster which is where my own sons came to know him well.
I have a particular debt to him myself as I drew on one of his astronomy books, which contained a reasonably detailed map of Mars that I found fascinating and invaluable, for the background of my first published story, The Face of the Waters.
Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS: 4/3/1923-9/12/2012. So it goes.
Posted in Astronomy at 11:07 pm on 19 November 2012
This is the Red Spider Planetary Nebula from Astronomy Picture of the Day for 29/10/12. What a weird apparition. I don’t think it looks much like a spider, though, more some sort of weird jellyfish or flying creature or maybe an alien spacecraft like those in Star Trek, not a Klingon Bird of Prey but close.
What makes it strange is its apparent smoothness. Most celestial bodies in the Solar System outwith the gas giants and the Sun – including Earth – are cratered. Not only is Methone’s unpock-marked surface unusual, its egg-like shape is puzzling. As a rule small celestial objects are irregular in shape.
Posted in Astronomy at 12:00 pm on 6 November 2012
I haven’t done one of these for a while.
This is Phobos: one of Mars’s two moons, from Astronomy Picture of the Day, 28/10/12. Phobos definitely resembles a potato in this view. Its orbit is so close to Mars that it will eventually be broken up by tidal forces and the remnants smeared into a ring around the planet.
If you take a look at today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day it shows a fantastic aurora over Greenland. (The photo is credited to J C Casado. It has been overlaid with the outlines of the constellations in that part of the sky. The building in the forground is a farmhouse in Greenland.)
APOD describes this as looking like a goat’s head but for some reason it reminds me of Munch’s The Scream.
Click through to here and other fantastic aurorae are shown whose photos were taken on the same expedition.
The link above (to Sky and Telescope) has the original definition as being the fourth full Moon in a season (winter, spring, summer or autumn) with seasons based on the tropical rather than calendar year.
According to that definition yesterday’s full Moon wasn’t blue but there will be one in August next year. See the graph below (taken from the Sky and Telescope article, where they take the blame for the confusion):-
From Astronomy Picture of the Day again. This was the view on 17/6/12. It shows the Sun eclipsed by Jupiter. The rings are backlit by the Sun. Normally they would be just about invisible. The bright areas round Jupiter itself are due to dust particles in Jupiter’s atmosphere also scattering the Sun’s light.
I’m lucky to be alive at a time when these pictures became possible.
This picture (from Astronomy Picture of the Day 14/5/12) shows all the water of Jupiter’s moon Europa as if gathered into a ball and a similar depiction is done for Earth.
If you look at the sizes of the two spheres of water you can see Earth actually has comparatively little. It’s just spread over a large area (the oceans.) Europa has more water in total. A good place to look for extraterrestrial life then, perhaps.