The Sky at Night

This article is about the BBC astronomy programme. For other uses, see Sky at Night (disambiguation).
The Sky at Night
Genre Documentary
Presented by

Patrick Moore
Chris Lintott (2013–)
Lucie Green (2013)
Maggie Aderin-Pocock (2013–)

Brian May
(1998, 2011, 2012)
Starring Chris Lintott
Pete Lawrence
Paul Abel
Chris North
Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Theme music composer Jean Sibelius
Opening theme "At the Castle Gate"
Ending theme "At the Castle Gate"
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 750 (as of July 2015)
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) BBC Birmingham
(until 2013)
BBC Science (2014–)
Original network BBC One (1957–2013)
BBC Four (2014–)
Original release 24 April 1957 (1957-04-24) – present
External links

The Sky at Night is a monthly documentary television programme on astronomy produced by the BBC. The show had the same permanent presenter, Patrick Moore, from its first airing on 24 April 1957 until 7 January 2013, Moore having died[1] on 9 December 2012. This made it the longest-running programme with the same presenter in television history.[2] Many early episodes are missing, either because the tapes were wiped or thrown out, or because the episode was broadcast live.[3]

Beginning with the 3 February 2013 edition, the show has been co-presented by Lucie Green and Chris Lintott,[4] with Maggie Aderin-Pocock announced in December 2013 as a new presenter.[5]

The programme's opening and closing theme music is "At the Castle Gate", from the incidental music to Pelléas et Mélisande, written in 1905 by Jean Sibelius, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.


The programme covers a wide range of general astronomical and space-related topics. Topics include 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."[6]

Notable guests

Many of the world's leading astronomers have appeared on the show through the years, including Harlow Shapley (the first to measure the size of the Milky Way galaxy), Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan,[7] Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Samuel Tolansky, Harold Spencer Jones, Martin Ryle, Carlos Frenk and Bart Bok.[8] Other guests have included Arthur C. Clarke,[3] Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, Arnold Wolfendale, Allan Chapman, Sir Bernard Lovell, Michael Bentine, Wernher von Braun and Open University professors John Zarnecki, Monica Grady, Edwin Maher and Colin Pillinger.

Many well-known astronauts have also appeared on the programme, such as Piers Sellers, Eugene Cernan, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.[9]

In July 2004, Moore was unable to make the broadcast owing to a severe bout of salmonellosis.[10] He was replaced for this one occasion by the cosmologist Chris Lintott of Oxford University, but returned for the August programme. This was the only occasion in the 55 years of Moore's tenure that he did not host the programme.

Brian May, the Queen guitarist and astrophysicist, has been a guest on the show from time to time.[11]

On 1 April 2007, Moore presented the 50th Anniversary edition of the show, a special "time travel" edition which included the appearance of Jon Culshaw as Moore's younger self. The 50th anniversary programme was filmed at Teddington Studios as the 1957 home of the programme, Lime Grove Studios, had been demolished in 1992.

On 6 March 2011, Moore presented the 700th edition of the show, a special retrospective episode which included Jon Culshaw once again appearing as Moore's younger self, as well as Brian May.

Rumoured cancellation

In September 2013 the BBC announced that the programme's future after December 2013 was under review, prompting speculation that the corporation would end it, and a petition asking for the show to be retained.[12] On 29 October it was announced that the programme would continue, but would only be shown on BBC Four, ending a 54-year run on the BBC's flagship channel.[13]

Commemorative honours

The International Astronomical Union celebrated the 50th anniversary of the show by naming an 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.[14]

In the Guinness Book of World Records, Patrick Moore is listed as the most prolific TV presenter in the world, having hosted all but one episode of the programme between 1957 and January 2013.[15]

DVD release

A DVD of the special commemorative Sky at Night film Apollo 11: A Night to Remember was released on 6 July 2009 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first man on the moon.

See also


  1. Sample, Ian (9 December 2012). "Sir Patrick Moore: the eccentric amateur who became a TV star". Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  2. Biography of Sir Patrick Moore Retrieved 4/Jan/07
  3. 1 2 Kennedy, Maev (1 December 2011). "Arthur C Clarke predicted Russians would put first man on moon". Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  4. "The Sky at Night episode credits". BBC. 3 February 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  5. "New Sky At Night presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock 'confused with tea lady'". BBC News. 13 December 2013.
  6. "The Sky at Night enters 50th year". BBC News. 8 January 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2007.
  7. "Leading astronomers on The Sky At Night". BBC News. 8 January 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
  8. "A History of the Sky at Night". BBC Science & Nature. September 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  9. Moore, Patrick (1987). TV Astronomer, Thirty Years of 'The Sky at Night'. p. 94. ISBN 0 245-54531-X.
  10. Chamberlain, Darryl (6 July 2004). "Food poisoning". BBC News. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
  11. "Queen Guitarist Brian May Gets Astrophysics Doctorate". 24 August 2007. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  12. Williams, Rhiannon (2013-09-24). "The Sky At Night faces the axe one year after Sir Patrick Moore's death". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  13. Plunkett, John (2013-10-29). "The Sky at Night gets new slot on BBC4 following 40,000-signature petition". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  14. "2007 – The Sky at Night set". Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  15. Chamberlain, Darryl (6 July 2004). "The Sky At Night's space generation". BBC News. Retrieved 9 October 2007.
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