FRIENDS have paid tribute to astronomer Sir Patrick Moore who died at his Selsey home yesterday.
The 89-year-old passed away peacefully with close friends and his cat Ptolemy at his side.
A world-renowned astronomer, he presented the BBC’s The Sky At Night for more than 40 years.
Dr John Mason, the founder of South Downs Planetarium, in Chichester, met him as a small boy when Sir Patrick first moved to the West Sussex town in 1968.
He was with him at his home, Farthings, yesterday.
Dr Mason said: ‘I went to see him only a few hours before he died.
‘I knew the end was coming soon but did not think it was going to be that soon.
‘We are pretty devastated. His contribution to astronomy is unbelievable, it is simply unquantifiable.
‘He was an enormous support to us at the planetarium from the very beginning. He encouraged us and helped us with fundraising.
‘There can’t be a scientist or anyone working in an observatory who can’t say the first book they read was by Patrick.
‘His influence on the subject of astronomy, worldwide, is unquantifiable.’
Sir Patrick was also a member of the Hampshire Astronomical Group.
Richard Judd, president of the group, said: ‘He was a great man and he will be greatly missed. He was an inspiration to thousands of youngsters.
‘The greatest pleasure to me is that Patrick still was broadcasting The Sky At Night up until his death. It was a brilliant achievement.
‘There will be many people around Selsey and southern England that will see it as a very sad day.
‘It’s an era of inspirational science that very few people possess.
‘Many people are trying to promote astronomy. No one promoted it as well as Patrick.
‘It will be very difficult to find anybody with that largeness of character. He was larger than life.’
Sir Patrick’s friends released a statement following his death at 12.25pm yesterday, saying that following a short spell in hospital it was his wish to spend his last days at home.
Councillor John Connor, who represents Selsey on Chichester District Council, said: ‘I had a business relationship with him too.
‘I used to do picture framing and I used to do quite a bit of work for him. Unfortunately I had the dubious honour of throwing him out of my shop. He could be quite outspoken and I once told him to get out.
‘He had the good grace to come back a little while later and apologise. We parted as friends. I can picture him in the village now on his wobbly old bike.
‘It’s very sad. He was an institution.’
After a private funeral a memorial service will be held on what would have been his 90th birthday, in March 2013.