Ken Chilton's television programme The Sky Tonight (on Cable 8), was modelled after Patrick Moore's The Sky At Night.
The Universe is a beautiful mysterious and fascinating place. Its allure has attracted the attention of men from the days of the ancient Chaldean shepherds, lying on their backs in the meadows at night, to the present time, when scientists, with their large and powerful instruments, probe and interpret radiations reaching the Earth from distant galaxies. Public interest in Astronomy, the science of the Universe, has never been higher. This, no doubt, is due, in part, to the tremendous impact of the manned space programmes. Man, at last, has left his home planet and has travelled the relatively short distance to the Moon. Consequently, imaginations have been sparked, with the result that membership in astronomical associations has increased dramatically.
With public interest so high, I began to wonder, in late 1970, if a television series on the subject of Astronomy might not be of value in educating the public with regard to the wonders of outer space. Since community television by means of cablevision, that is, broadcasting by means of coaxial cable instead of through the air, was comparatively new and in need of programmes, I wrote to Cable 8 Ltd., a company producing television by this means in Hamilton,Ontario. The idea was accepted and, on March 31, 1971, the first edition of "The Sky Tonight" was produced. The format of "The Sky Tonight" is simple. Usually, I invite some local amateur astronomer, or a professional astronomer from a nearby university, knowledgeable in the topic of the evening, to the studio. While the guests answer my questions, the control-room staff show pictures and slides at the appropriate moments.
This book contains the material covered in the programme. It is more or less chronological, but I have not tried to include the material from every programme. I have picked what I think are the best and most interesting. Neither is this book a complete astronomical compendium. Rather, it is a series of short essays on astronomical topics.
In the production of this book, the writer owes a great deal to many people. Sincere thanks go to Malcolm Neal, General Manager of Cable 8 Ltd., and director of "The Sky Tonight". He pushes the buttons that make things come out right. Thanks also to the staff at the studio for their encouragement. I would also like to express my appreciation to Mr. Patrick Moore of B.B.C.Television in England, whose programme "The Sky At Night" was a source of inspiration. Patrick's encouragement has made production of "The Sky Tonight" a great deal easier.
Lastly, the writer owes a great deal to his wife, whose tolerance and understanding have made production of television, and of this book, much simpler. Her suggestions and criticisms have been more than valuable.
At the time of this writing, "The Sky Tonight" has completed its 112th half-hour broadcast. Hopefully, the public will continue to view our efforts favourably, for it is their support and interest which make continuance of the programme possible.
Revised September 1975