Sir Patrick Moore Dies At West Sussex Home

Tributes have been paid to the "irreplaceable'' astronomer Sir Patrick Moore who died today aged 89.

The eccentric broadcaster passed away peacefully this afternoon at his home in Selsey, West Sussex, after being struck down by an infection.

His friend, Queen guitarist Brian May, said the world had "lost a priceless treasure that can never be replaced".

Sir Patrick inspired successive generations of stargazers with his television series The Sky At Night and wrote more than 60 books on astronomy.

He celebrated the 55th anniversary of the BBC programme in April, with it becoming the longest running television series with the same presenter.

Sir Patrick only missed one episode since it began in 1957, when he suffered a severe bout of food poisoning in 2004 which nearly killed him.

The last programme was broadcast just last Monday.

Speaking at a party to celebrate the 55th anniversary of The Sky At Night, he said he hoped the stargazing series would continue "indefinitely".

He said: "I'm absolutely staggered. I never thought when I began doing television shows that I'd be on for another year, let alone 55 years.

"I didn't know if I was going to be good enough or if the subject matter would hold up. I think I'm exactly the same now as I was when I started. I just haven't got the voice I once had."

Sir Patrick, who read his first book on astronomy at the age of six and published his first paper on the topic at the age of 13, went on to win a Bafta for services to television and was a member of the Royal Society. He received his knighthood in 2001.

He lived alone and never married after the woman he was due to wed was killed in an air raid during the Second World War.

The stargazer, who had a pacemaker fitted in 2006, battled ill health in recent years and became wheelchair-bound and unable to look through a telescope.

His friends and staff announced his death in a statement.

It said: "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.

"He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV programme The Sky At Night right up until the most recent episode.

"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's trademark monocle, unique delivery and occasional performances on the xylophone made him a familiar target for satirists and impressionists, but his scientific credentials were never in doubt.

The Sky At Night's guests have included many prominent scientists as well as Goon Show star Michael Bentine and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

But the demands of live television have led to the occasional blooper, with Sir Patrick famously once swallowing a fly live on air.

May, who co-wrote two books with Sir Patrick, paid tribute to a "dear friend and a kind of father figure to me".

He said: "Patrick will be mourned by the many to whom he was a caring uncle, and by all who loved the delightful wit and clarity of his writings, or enjoyed his fearlessly eccentric persona in public life.

"Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one."

Professor Brian Cox, who presents a number of science programmes for the BBC, wrote on Twitter: "Very sad news about Sir Patrick. Helped inspire my love of astronomy. I will miss him!''

Comedian Sue Perkins tweeted: "RIP Patrick Moore - you taught me to look up x."

While impressionist Jon Culshaw wrote: "Terribly, terribly sad to hear of the passing of Sir Patrick Moore, our Godfather of astronomy, he captured its fascination for all of us x."