2006 - Chichester Planetarium
by Patrick Moore
February 2006, the London Planetarium, opened in 1958,
announced that it is to stop showing the sky, and
instead it will show ‘celebrities’. Patrick
Moore says that in the last few years, ‘’It
had dumbed down. It had become a glorified peep show,
giving a tantalising glimpse of the universe, but
not a scintilla of good scientific information. Such
a terrible wasted opportunity.’’ On his
last visit, ‘’There was a show with weird
and wonderful music, and spaceships dancing about
the sky – but no real astronomy at all.’’
natural world fills us every day of our life with
wonder, knowledge and awe, it never fails. Every day
brings new insight and every day is fun. But fun is
not ‘zany’ or ‘whacky’, these
are 2 of the most dreaded words in our language. Our
top broadcasters, Patrick Moore, Chris Packham, David
Attenborough require no zany camera angles, no gimmicks,
they speak in a calm, quiet, natural voice, and let
the birds, the animals, the universe, hog the limelight.
The 'stars' are the stars of the show. When, because
of the content, broadcasters believe your attention
span is 5 seconds, it probably is.
So our capital city has no planetarium; but Chichester
does! London can no longer support a planetarium,
(at least until Greenwich 2007) but Chichester can,
this small city with no catchment area. No one from
outside of Sussex seems aware that it is here. The
Chichester Planetarium is a local marvel.
you arrive 15 minutes before the programme begins.
If you are late, it is no use saying, ’Do you
know who I am?’ I tried this once, but as soon
as the show begins, you’ve had it, even if you
have travelled specifically from Waga Waga. So, principally
on your first visit, get there early, as you have
to find the place.)
planetarium had all the criteria required for lottery
funding. It would appeal to everyone, especially the
youngsters of the local community, being educational,
enjoyable, stimulating, non-profit making, so they
applied for lottery support and were turned down flat,
not a penny. It therefore took 7 years of fund-raising
and hard work to build.
was built by volunteers, is still run by volunteers,
and has that friendly, laid-back British welcome to
everyone. It quite simply would not be here but for
Dr John Mason, and Patrick Moore living nearby, giving
his name and time to the project. For some reason,
the local MP also gave it no support whatever, not
even bothering to turn up at the opening ceremony.
Moore needs no introduction. If you have not heard
of him during the last 50 years, you must have been
living on the planet Zog. His TV programme has celebrated
its 50th anniversary, the world’s longest ever-running
television programme, in 2005 a new monthly magazine
was introduced, the ‘Sky at Night’, he
is the most recognised astronomer in the world - -
well this is what Buzz Aldrin says about him:
is still at the Sky at Night and still has no contract
with the BBC. He says it’s just a gentleman’s
is a self-made and self-motivated man. At the age
of 11 he was elected the youngest member of the British
Astronomical Association. Fifty years later to the
day, he was elected its president.
his 1908 typewriter** he has written over sixty books
on astronomy. Yet he still claims to be an amateur,
although one of the few to be honoured with the CBE
and OBE, seven doctorates and a knighthood.
special subject has always been the moon, he has named
some features on it and provided maps. In 1959 he
was able to bring viewers the first direct pictures
of the far side of the moon.
Incidentally it was his lunar charts that the Russians
used to correlate this new information. And again,
it was some of Patrick’s records that NASA used
in the early Apollo landings.Not
only has this man met every single astronaut, he will
modestly tell you that he has also met both the first
man in space and the first man in an aeroplane, Orville
Wright, as well as the author H G Wells, and the great
physicist Albert Einstein.’’
I said, no introduction.
above illustrates just 10% of what he does and has
achieved, we all love his eccentricity, his never-diminishing
enthusiasm, keeping up with our rapidly changing understanding
of the universe, and he is a local boy from Selsey.
This piece was written on his 1908 typewriter, which
still types as clear as crystal. Well, sort of - -
- **(incidentally, Patrick Moore wrote this article
for my website on this famous typewriter.)
piece was written immediately, and if 10 pages had
been asked for - it would have been done. This was
not required, as there is an excellent website, below.
Please visit, support your local amenities, and you
will not be disappointed.
SOUTH DOWNS PLANETARIUM
idea of a major planetarium in Sussex came originally
from Dr. John Mason. There were obvious problems to
overcome – finance of course, being the most
pressing, but these were overcome, and the Planetarium
proved to be most successful. Typically, there was
nothing in the lottery and the local Conservative
MP showed no interest whatsoever, so that the whole
project was financed privately and with assistance
from local industry.
Planetarium lies within easy walking distance of Chichester’s
station, it lays close to Kingsham Road, just outside
Chichester High School for Boys.
seats over 100 people, and the projector is Japanese,
showing a sky which is amazingly realistic. Most displays
are ‘live’ with time for questions. Dr.
Mason is the main lecturer, but there are also other
qualified astronomers, plus occasional guest speakers.
The equipment will do everything that a planetarium
is capable of doing.
– each lasting for a full hour – cover
all aspects of astronomy and space research. In addition,
there is an exhibition on the ground floor, and above
this an excellent library.
details about programmes and facilities can be obtained
from the director, South Downs Planetarium, the Sir
Patrick Moore Building, Kingsham Farm, Chichester
West Sussex, PO19 8RP, or Chichester 774400. We look
forward to seeing you, and there are good car-parking
further reading on astronomy, buy one of Patrick’s
books or one of the thousands on the universe, but
please beware. It might just set you off on a new
hobby for life.
P.S. If you feel suicidal, just before you tighten
the noose, try reading his autobiography, and the
chapter entitled, ‘O Argentina’. You’ll
still finish up kicking the stool away, but you’ll
go laughing. Not suitable fo rthose into political
correctness, but there is much more in this book on