The Sky At Night has been a fixture on our TV screens for more than 60 years.
From 1957 until 2013, the monthly documentary series was presented by Sir Patrick Moore, and each episode has focused on new discoveries in the skies above us, as well as space-related topics such as black holes, neutron stars and events at the time of broadcast such as a meteor shower or bright comet passing the Earth.
Sadly, Patrick Moore died at the end of 2012 (his final episode was broadcast after his death), but four extremely qualified and entertaining scientists now present the BBC series together – Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Professor Chris Lintott, Pete Lawrence and Dr Lucie Green.
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock has a degree in Physics and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, and has worked on both the Gemini telescope in Chile and the James Webb Space telescope. She has presented Stargazing on Cbeebies and Out Of This World for CBBC with her daughter, Lauren.
“Presenting The Sky At Night has brought me full circle; as a child I would beg my parents to allow me to stay up late and watch the programme,” she says. “It even inspired me to go to night school at a young age to make my own telescope mirror, which I lovingly crafted and gave me my first glimpse of the breathtaking spectacle above us.”
Maggie wanted to be an astronaut as a child, and says she hasn’t given up on her dream of travelling to outer space. “I want to retire to Mars,” she says. “Some people choose gardening, I choose Mars!”
Professor Chris Lintott
Professor Chris Lintott has a degree in Natural Sciences and a PhD in the chemistry of star formation. He was recruited to the Sky at Night team as a researcher, then as a reporter and co-presenter.
“I was incredibly fortunate and went to a school blessed not only with a large telescope, but with teachers brave or foolhardy enough to give the keys to my friends and me,” he says.
Chris’s day job is as a researcher at the University of Oxford, recruiting people to help out with tasks like discovering supernovae or classifying galaxies. “A highlight of every month, though, is the trip to film the programme and talk about comets, cosmology or whatever is happening in the sky,” he says. He also co-authored ‘Bang: The Complete History of the Universe” and “The Cosmic Tourist” with Sir Patrick Moore and Queen guitarist (and astrophysicist) Brian May.
Pete Lawrence has an honours degree in Physics with Astrophysics, and combines a career in computer software development with his interest in astronomy, using digital cameras for astrophotography.
He has a personal connection with The Sky At Night. “I remember Patrick [Moore] visiting my school and leaving such a strong, lasting impression that I decided I just had to have a larger telescope,” he says.
“Being a schoolboy at the time, my funds were limited so my next telescope was completely homemade; I even ground the main 8.75 inch mirror myself! It took a long time but the views I eventually got made all the effort very worthwhile.”
Dr Lucie Green
Dr Lucie Green is a Royal Society University Research Fellow working at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, where she studies the evolution of immense magnetic structures in the sun’s atmosphere. She joined The Sky At Night in 2013, becoming the series’ first ever female presenter.
“Whilst an undergraduate at Sussex University I began studying binary stars,” she says. “However, during a trip to the Crimean Astrophyspical Observatory, I was shown the sun through a hydrogen alpha filter and this led to a shift in my research focus. I was surprised and fascinated by the structure I saw, and from then on I was hooked by the sun.”
As well as studying the sun and presenting The Sky At Night, Lucie also gives talks to schools and special interest groups, discussing the latest astronomical discoveries.