Herschel on The Sky at Night

Prof Derek Ward-Thompson and Dr Chris North discussing Herschel with Sir Patrick Moore
Image credit: BBC

Two members of the Herschel team will discuss the latest astronomical findings with Sir Patrick Moore during an appearance on the next edition of the BBC’s flagship astronomy programme – The Sky at Night, broadcast on Monday 7th June. Professor Derek Ward-Thompson and Dr Chris North from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy will join a long list of the world’s leading astronomers to discuss the latest astronomical findings on the show.

The programme is devoted to latest results from Herschel – which incorporates the largest mirror ever to be launched into space. Professor Derek Ward-Thompson said: “The results coming from Herschel are going to be invaluable to astronomy.  We are now seeing, for the first time, the link between the gas and dust throughout our Galaxy and the stars which are forming from this material. It is a tremendous pleasure to be able to discuss these newest findings with Sir Patrick”.

The two astronomers will discuss the latest findings from Herschel, launched just over a year ago. It looks at very long wavelength infra-red light, and so does not see stars, but instead observes the gas and dust between the stars, and within which new stars are born. Previously unseen star formation has been revealed in the first scientific results from the Herschel infra-red space observatory, along with new images showing thousands of distant galaxies furiously building stars. One picture catches a supposedly ‘impossible’ star in the act of formation.

From the formation of stars and planets, to the behaviour of the largest groups of galaxies, Herschel is providing images of the Universe in unprecedented detail. These are providing detailed information about how stars live and die, and are allowing theorists to begin to understand galaxy formation.

A long history

The Sky at Night is the BBC’s flagship astronomy programme. The show has had the same permanent presenter, Sir Patrick Moore, for more than 53 years and nearly 700 programmes, making it the longest-running programme with the same presenter in television history. Since April 1957, Sir Patrick has presented all bar one of the monthly Sky by Night programmes, securing him a place in the 'Guinness book of Records' as the longest serving television presenter.

Dr Chris North said: “It’s a real honour to have the chance to appear and discuss the latest Herschel findings with Sir Patrick Moore. The Sky at Night is unlike any other TV programme, it has a faithful following and is watched by amateurs and professionals alike.

The two join an impressive list of the world's leading astronomers who’ve appeared on the programme. They include: Harlow Shapley, who first measured the size of the Milky Way galaxy, Carl Sagan, of "Cosmos" fame, Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, discoverer of pulsars, Fred Hoyle, Stephen Hawking, Harold Spencer Jones, Sir Martin Rees and Bart Bok, amongst many others.  Sir Patrick has also interviewed astronauts such as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and more recently the British-born Piers Sellers, who has just completed a mission on the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The programme will be broadcast on BBC1 at 00:55 on Monday 7th June and shown one hour earlier in England. A longer version will also be shown on Tuesday 8th June at 19:30 on BBC4.