BBC to continue producing the Sky at Night

After months of uncertainty over the fate of the Sky at Night, a small victory has been achieved by those (including myself) who wished for the legendary programme to continue production by the BBC.  A press release issued by the BBC today states:

The BBC today announces that its longest-running astronomy series, The Sky at Night, will continue next year. From February 2014, it will air in a new monthly half hour slot on BBC Four, with repeats on BBC Two.

Kim Shillinglaw, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History, says: “Sir Patrick Moore inspired generations of astronomers and I hope that alongside the BBC’s other astronomy content, such as BBC Two’s Stargazing LiveThe Sky at Night will enthuse further generations about the wonder of the night sky.”

The Sky at Night was first broadcast on 24 April 1957 and continued to be presented by Sir Patrick Moore until his death in 2012, making it the longest-running programme with the same presenter in television history.

Why do I say small victory?  The programme is losing, its admittedly terrible, BBC1 slot which was after midnight.  I cannot help but feel that the highly successful annual production of Stargazing Live which screens on BBC2 in January demonstrates that there is a real public appetite for astronomy related content, it just needs to be well advertised and on at a sensible hour.  I have had numerous friends and family express interest in watching the Sky at Night but state that “they do not know when it will be on.”  There are also some questions being raised currently over what format the show will have for its 2014 run.

I am however, very pleased to see the programme continue, and the incredible legacy that Sir Patrick Moore started which has inspired multiple generations of astronomers, including this author, will be there to nurture the next generation.

Congratulations to the Save the Sky at Night Campaign who ran a successful social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook and collated over 52,000 signatures on a petition.

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