In April 1957, the very first Sky at Night programme was broadcast by BBC Television. It was introduced by (Sir) Patrick Moore, who has been presenting the programme ever since. On the BBC Sky at Night website, Sir Patrick writes:
"I am often asked why The Sky at Night has lasted for so long, and will, we hope, last for a long time yet. There are, I think, several reasons. The most important is that the sky is all around us, and surely there can be nobody who can avoid taking at least a passing interest.
"Secondly, astronomy is one of the few sciences in which the amateur can play a really useful role. Amateurs carry out work which professionals have no time to do, have no wish to do, or cannot do. For example, amateurs have always been to the fore in discovering comets and novae, hunting for supernovae, and monitoring events happening on the planets.
"The third reason is that The Sky at Night is non-controversial, goes out late, is unlike any other regular programme, and has a faithful following. This means that as far as the BBC's planners are concerned, it is nobody's enemy."
1st Class - Saturn Nebula C55
A favourite of amateur astronomers named after the Saturn-like shape of the nebula. Discovered by William Herschel in 1782 the Saturn Nebula is about 1400 light-years from the Sun and can be found in the constellation of Aquarius.
1st Class - Eskimo Nebula C39
A planetary nebula with a bright central star that has been likened to a face peering out of fur lined parka. Discovered by William Herschel in 1787 the Eskimo Nebula is about 4000 light-years from the Sun and can be found in the constellation of Gemini.
50p - Cat's Eye Nebula C6
A bright and complex planetary nebula, with a bright central star forming the glint in the cat's eye. Discovered by William Herschel in 1786 the Cat's Eye Nebula is about 3000 light-years from the Sun and can be found in the constellation of Draco
50p - Helix Nebula C63
Easily seen with binoculars, the apparent helical structure gives it its name. Its central star is a very hot dwarf. At 450 light-years from the Sun it is the closest nebula to the Earth and can be found in the constellation of Aquarius.
72p - Flaming Star Nebula C31
The distinctive purple colour of the nebula is caused by ionising radiation from the Flaming Star, AE Aurigae, a runaway star from the Orion Nebula. The Flaming Star Nebula is 1600 light-years from the Sun and can be found in the constellation of Auriga.
72p - The Spindle C53
A lenticular galaxy with a bright nucleus, the Spindle contains a black hole that is about one billion times as massive as the Sun. Visible with powerful binoculars the Spindle is 32 million light-years from the Sun near the constellation of Sextans.
The 32x30mm stamps are designed by Dick Davies. Self-adhesive stamps
in sheets of 30/60 of each value* are printed in gravure by Walsall
Security Printers. (*They cannot truly be described as se-tenant
because they are self-adhesive.)
The backing paper is printed with information about the subjects of the
All images except Norvic FDCs are Copyright Royal Mail 2006/07.
Photography details as provided by Royal Mail:
- 1st Class: B Balick(U Washington) et al,WFPC2, HST, NASA.
- 1st: NASA, Andrew Fruchter and the ERO Team, Sylvia Baggett (STScl), Richard Hook (ST-ECF), Zoltan Levay (STScl).
- 50p: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScl/AURA), R.Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain) and Z. Tsvetanov (NASA).
- 50p: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M Meixner (STScl), and T.A. Rector (NRAO).
- 72p: Robert Gendler.
- 72p: John Kormendy, University of Texas at Austin, USA.
Our limited edition FDC for these stamps shows the Orion Nebula M42 and will be available with a choice of two postmarks. The covers are priced at £8.95 each.
Mint set of 6
Royal Mail FDCs
Set of 6 Stamp Cards unused
Postmarks available for the day of issue are shown below - these may not be to scale. These postmarks cannot be obtained after the date of issue.
| Ref FD705
Philatelic Bureau Official Postmark
| Ref FD706
Star, Glenrothes, Official Postmark
| Ref FD706NP
Star, Glenrothes, Official non-pictorial Postmark
| Ref N10390
50 Years of the Television Programme The Sky at Night GBFDC Association, Moore, Warrington
| Ref N10387
Sky at Night, Macclesfield
| Ref L10380
British Astronomical Association, London
| Ref L10379
Sky at Night, Pinner, Middlesex
| Ref N10391
50th anniversary of Sputnik, Jodrell Bank, Macclesfield
| Ref N10389
The Sky at Night, Liverpool Astronomical Society, Rex Hill Observatory, Widnes
| Ref N10388
West Yorkshire Astronomical Society, Pontefract
| Ref L10381
Sky at Night, Pinner, Middlesex
| Ref M10359
The Sky at Night, Moore Crescent, Birmingham
| Ref L10326
50th Anniv. of The Sky at Night, Greenwich London SE16
| Ref S10392
Sky at Night, Star, Glenrothes, Fife
| Ref W10393
The Sky at Night, Delabole (Cornwall)
| Ref L10399
Good Heavens Above, The Sky at Night, Flaming Star Nebula London W9
| Ref L10400
The Seven Sisters Cluster, The Sky at Night, Selsey Sussex
| Ref M10406
The North Star, Northampton
If you have any questions about these stamps please email
NB: all emails will be acknowledged in 1-2 days. If you do not receive an acknowledgement please email us from a different address (eg hotmail, gmail).
This page updated 23 May 2007
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