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The Universe According to Patrick Moore

The Universe According to Patrick Moore

The Universe According to Patrick Moore

Brought together for the first time, The Universe According to Patrick Moore is the definitive collection of Sir Patrick Moore’s columns for BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Britain’s preeminent amateur astronomer recounts a lifetime of looking up: his tales from filming The Sky at Night TV show, interviews with the pioneers he met along the way, plus his opinions on space science, the search for life and the future.

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United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited
R 131,34

in this issue

5 min
the allure of exoplanets

There was a time, as recently as 20 years ago, when the Earth was regarded as a cosmic oddity. We knew that there were an almost countless number of stars similar to the Sun and there seemed no definite reason why there should not be other planetary systems similar to ours, but there was no proof. Some astronomers believed that planets might be common, but others were much more cautious, and were very dubious about this. Of course, the main problem at that time was that we could not hope to see many of these planets in orbit around distant stars directly; we would have to rely on other methods to identify the ‘extrasolar’ planets, or exoplanets. Personally, I was confident that other planets were very numerous, but there were always…

5 min
urbain le verrier: the man who didn’t discover neptune

Published March 2011 Urbain Le Verrier was one of the greatest French mathematicians of the 19th Century, or of any century for that matter. This is not in doubt. But two quotes about him are always brought up in any article concerning his achievements. The first came from a colleague whose name has not been preserved; the second from an even greater astronomer, François Arago. The first is that, “Monsieur Le Verrier may not be the most detestable man in France, but I am quite certain that he is the most detested”; the other is, “The astronomer who discovered a planet at the tip of his pen.” Both are well known – but are they justified? With regard to the first, I consider it as dubious and I have good reasons for…

5 min
what are the greatest telescopes of all time?

Published January 2007 What are, or were, the world’s greatest telescopes? I do not refer particularly to size; I mean the telescopes that, in their time, reigned supreme and led to ‘quantum leaps’ in science. I can list six: Galileo’s original refractor, Isaac Newton’s first reflector, the Rosse ‘Leviathan’ at Birr Castle, the Mount Wilson 100-inch, the Palomar 200-inch and the Hubble Space Telescope. All are still in working order; although the first of them has not been turned skyward for a long time! We begin in the winter of 1609/10 in Holland: a telescope had been built by a Middleburg spectacle-maker, Hans Lippershey. It was probably not the first but reports of earlier telescopes are vague and Lippershey’s is the first about which we have definite information. News of the device…

5 min
the marvels of venus

Published April 2012 Apart from the Sun and the Moon, Venus is the brightest thing in the entire sky. When well placed it can be seen in broad daylight and it can even cast shadows. If Venus is shining really brilliantly it is entertaining to see whether it can cast your shadow. Remember, Venus is about the same size as Earth and covered by a dense cloudy atmosphere; it is this atmosphere that prevents us from having a clear view of the planet’s surface. The clouds never clear away – there is no such thing as a sunny day on Venus! Furthermore, the planet is closer to the Sun than we are and moves more quickly than Earth, so its year is shorter. We see it best when its angular distance to the…

5 min
when will we meet the expectations of the 1960s?

Published February 2012 Arthur C Clarke, an old friend, joined me on The Sky at Night in 1963. It was a programme I remember well. He was a great visionary, remembered today both as a space scientist and as a science-fiction writer – and of course the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-wrote, will never be forgotten. The great point about Arthur was that he really believed everything he said and so he was never inclined to compromise: others could disagree and argue with him persuasively but he would seldom change his opinions. He got a great deal right and I remember on one particular instance he was saying that men would reach the Moon by 1990. I said at the time that 2000 would be a better guess. As…

5 min
the fate of the hubble space telescope

Published September 2008 In April 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was blasted into space. I was one of NASA’s guests at Cape Canaveral, waiting to see the launch; when it happened, I knew that it signalled the beginning of a new era. There had been space telescopes before but nothing on this scale. Hubble has a 94-inch mirror. Today this does not sound gigantic, but almost 20 years ago it seemed most impressive. Casting my mind back, I recall that when I began to take a serious interest in astronomy, the largest telescope in the world was the 100-inch reflector at Mount Wilson – it was not only the largest but also in a class of its own. It was powerful enough to enable Edwin Hubble to identify Cepheid variables in what…