LONDON - Astronomer Patrick Moore, renowned for his work mapping the Moon’s surface and for having popularised his subject with the British public, died Sunday at the age of 89, friends and colleagues announced. The eccentric astronomer, whose research was used by the United States and the Soviets in their space programmes, “passed away peacefully at 12:25 pm (1225 GMT)”, at his home in Selsey on the southern English coast, they said in a statement. He had succumbed to an infection, the statement said. “After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home.”

Moore had fronted the monthly BBC programme “The Sky At Night” since 1957, making him the world’s longest-running presenter of the same television show.

He believed he was the only person to have met Orville Wright, the first man to fly; Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space; and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon.

Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 2001 for “services to the popularisation of science and to broadcasting”.

Besides his skill at explaining the intricacies of the universe, his monocle, wit and idiosyncratic style of speech endeared him to an army of fans spanning the generations.

The statement from his friends said Moore died in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy.

“Over the past few years, Patrick, an inspiration to generations of astronomers, fought his way back from many serious spells of illness and continued to work and write at a great rate, but this time his body was too weak to overcome the infection which set in, a few weeks ago,” it said.

“He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV programme “The Sky at Night” right up until the most recent episode.

“His executors and close friends plan to fulfil his wishes for a quiet ceremony of interment, but a farewell event is planned for what would have been Patrick’s 90th birthday in March 2013.”

At the age of eight he was given a 1908 typewriter on which his multitude of books and papers were written throughout his life.

Besides his astronomy, writing and broadcasting, Moore was a skilled xylophone player and a useful cricketer.