TALK WITH SIR PATRICK MOORE

Many months ago I was invited to give an astronomy presentation as part of the Portsmouth Festivities Space City Event. The extravaganza takes place over an eleven-day period in June each year at various locations in Portsmouth and focuses on music and arts, cosmology, astronomy, space technology and, latterly, science fiction. But not only was I asked to give a presentation ... I was asked if I would "mind" Sir Patrick Moore joining me on stage. Would I mind? I took a nanosecond to consider and replied a resounding, "No, not at all!"

So, as surreal as it sounds, on the afternoon of Saturday 25th June I 'stepped up to the plate' at Portsmouth Grammar School before a capacity audience; the organisers switched the venue last-minute since they'd sold so many tickets.

I gave a one-hour presentation, explaining how and why I became interested in astronomy, as well as offering all the reasons why I hadn't for so long. Then Sir Patrick joined me for a half-hour Q&A session.

What an indescribable honour. I did have to pinch myself several times as I glanced to my left. Sir Patrick was as fabulous as ever: dry, witty and so knowledgeable. Luckily, I knew my answers too!

This was then followed by just under two hours of book-signing, with each of us signing our own and each other's recent books, mine being the second reprint edition of Haynes' ASTRONOMY MANUAL. Again, it was surreal ... and undeniably a fabulous experience ... I think possibly the pinnacle of my amateur astronomy exploits!

Other invited speakers for the event included: NASA astronauts Dr Andrew Thomas and Dr Shannon Walker, space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Lord Professor Robert Winston, Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston CBE, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Mark Butler, Programme Manager for Spaceport America at Virgin Galactic, Simon Singh MBE ... among others ... you have the idea! I felt incredibly awed and honoured to be in the theatre of these renowned 'giants' of the astronomical and scientific world.

What a day!

One that will linger long in the memory. And there are more talks in the pipeline ... watch this space.

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