In February (2007) our Honorary President Sir Patrick Caldwell Moore gave Dave Wright and Andy Lawes a rare insight into his life by granting us an interview.
Below are some extracts of that meeting.
At the outbreak of the war in 1939, Moore joined the Royal Air Force and flew bombers. He did not further his education when the war was over and did not get a degree in astronomy. He was once quoted as saying, "I never had a brain for maths." Moore's involvement in astronomy reached new heights in 1945 when he was elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. His new 12 1/2-inch reflector was a very substantial telescope for an amateur at a time when most observers in England used 6-inch reflectors or smaller refractors. He added a 15-inch to his collection in 1968.
In 1957, the year comets Arend-Roland and Mrkos passed by the Earth, and the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into orbit, Patrick Moore capitalised on the public's growing interest in the sky and started a monthly, one-hour TV series called The Sky at Night. Entering its 47th-year this April (at the time of writing - actually starting in April 1957), the program surely ranks among the most successful and long-running television shows in history.
Patrick rarely had a regular job, but from 1965 to 1967 he served as founding director of Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland, the site of one of the world's oldest observing centres. With few exceptions, like a brief run in the 1960s on the large refractor at Meudon Observatory near Paris, Patrick had done most of his observing from his home in Selsey, Sussex, on England's south coast.
Patrick’s main interest lay in observing the planets, though he had done some variable-star observing throughout the years. In 1995 he surprised the astronomical world when he produced a listing of deep-sky objects to complement Messier's seminal catalogue. He dubbed it the Caldwell Catalogue, after his middle name, partly because M objects stand for Messier, not Moore!