Education: Passed/Failed Patrick Moore

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The Independent Online
Patrick Moore OBE, 75, is an astronomer

and author. He has been presenting `The

Sky at Night' every month since April 1957:

it is the world's longest running TV show

with the same presenter. `Patrick Moore on

Mars' has just been published, and he

recently finished rewriting his survey of

end-of-the-world cults, `Countdown'

Is there life in Bognor? I've had a very curious career. This was not my fault, or anyone else's. From the ages of six to 16, I was in and out of bed the whole time: I've got the wrong kind of heart. I was born in Pinner in Middlesex, then lived in Sussex ever since, apart from during the War. I went to kindergarten in Bognor, then had one term at prep school; then I was ill again. I worked independently with tutors, and took Common Entrance and passed. I was destined for Eton but was back in bed again.

Certified 18: I got the right number of School Certificates to matriculate to university - you had to get five all at once, and mine included Distinctions - and gained a place at Clare College, Cambridge. Then the war came. I was 16 but I said I was 18 (it didn't come out until I actually was 18), and fiddled the medicals to the RAF. I went flying and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer at 17.

Au Clare de la Lune: At the end of the war, I still had my place at Cambridge, but the only way I could take it up was by accepting a government grant, which I wasn't going to do; I thought I should stand on my own two feet, and didn't see why the government should pay. I decided I would pay my way through university by writing books - but then, I never had the time to go. So it's rather a sad story; I never made it! But I do have six Honorary Doctorates.

Book launch: I then wrote a book called Guide to the Moon, which has been through umpteen editions, and I've just been asked to revise it yet again. At the time, it seemed incredible that we would ever get there. I have just revised Countdown [a study of Doomsday beliefs] and my West Country Eclipse has just been published, raising money for a planetarium we are setting up in Chichester, which will be one of the largest in England outside London [pounds 3.50, post free from 46 Central Avenue, Bognor Regis, Sussex].

Moon struck: My subject is the Moon, which I became interested in when I was six by reading a book on it belonging to my mother; I've still got that book. I learnt my way about the stars with a star map and binoculars, then a small telescope, then a large telescope. My advice is to start with binoculars, because you can't see much with small telescopes - and large ones are very expensive.