SELSEY astronomer Sir Patrick Moore died today (December 9) in his home aged 89.
A group of his friends and staff said in a statement the broadcaster “passed away peacefully at 12.25pm this afternoon”.
It added: “After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home, Farthings, where he today passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy.
“Over the past few years, Patrick, an inspiration to generations of astronomers, fought his way back from many serious spells of illness and continued to work and write at a great rate, but this time his body was too weak to overcome the infection which set in, a few weeks ago.”
Sir Patrick presented the BBC programme The Sky At Night for more than 50 years, making him the longest-running host of the same television show ever.
He wrote dozens of books on astronomy and his research was used by the American and the Russians in their space programmes.
After the second world war, in which he lost his fiancee Lorna, the astronomer moved to Selsey with his mother because of fond memories of his childhood spent at his grandmother’s holiday house in Bognor Regis, and spent most of is life there.
He built his own telescope in his garden and began to observe the moon.
The detailed maps of the moon’s surface that he produced during this time were used by Nasa as part of the preparations for the moon landingBut he
But he was also very much part of the Selsey community, well-known to many local residents - many of whom were among the friends who attended his many gatherings at his home in the town.
Sir Patrick presented the first edition of The Sky at Night on 24th April 1957 and he last appeared in an episode broadcast on Monday.
“He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV programme The Sky at Night right up until the most recent episode,” the statement from his friends said.
“His executors and close friends plan to fulfil his wishes for a quiet ceremony of interment, but a farewell event is planned for what would have been Patrick’s 90th birthday in March 2013.”
Sir Patrick was instrumental in boosting Britain’s interest in astronomy. Television presenter and physicist Professor Brian Cox posted a message on Twitter saying: “Very sad news about Sir Patrick. Helped inspire my love of astronomy. I will miss him!
“Patrick certainly leaves a wonderful legacy, though. The generations of astronomers and scientists he introduced to the night sky.”
A national icon, Sir Patrick was also patron of the South Downs Planetarium & Science Centre in Chichester and was a key figure in the establishment of the International Birdman event in Bognor Regis, which was initially held in Selsey.
He was an enthusiastic amateur cricketer, playing for the Selsey Cricket Club well into his seventies, and was an active vice president of Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital in Sidlesham for many years.
Send in your memories of Sir Patrick for a tribute to the local hero in next week’s Observer.
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