A new Star Gazer steps up

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Friday, November 19, 2010

Like millions of Americans, I was a fan of the late Jack Horkheimer’s PBS show, Star Gazer. His enthusiasm and passion shone through the television screen, making even the most ardent couch potato want to get out of the house and “look to the stars.” After Horkheimer’s death in late August, Chris Trigg of the Miami Science Museum temporarily took over on Star Gazer, but the show’s producers will soon begin trying out hosts to permanently fill the slot.

Dean Regas gets ready for a turn as the new Star Gazer, as he begins tryouts for the show Jack Horkheimer hosted for decades until his death in August. Photo courtesy Dean Regas
The first of these new recruits will be Dean Regas, who guest hosts the December and January episodes. Longtime Astronomy fans will recognize Regas as the outreach astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory Center, which won our 2008 Out-of-this-World Award and used the proceeds to give away 40 quality telescopes to specially chosen individuals and teams.

“I’ve always been a fan of the show,” Regas says, and he’s very excited to have this opportunity. Even if he doesn’t end up becoming the permanent host, he says just being on Star Gazer and getting to write January’s shows, is a fantastic experience. “This is pretty much what I’ve been doing for 10 years,” he says, “public astronomy.”

Star Gazer faces the nearly insurmountable obstacle of having to interest an unsuspecting viewer in science late at night, with only 1 or 5 minutes to do it. Horkheimer’s well-known habit of sitting on Saturn’s rings, dangling his legs over the side like a big kid, helped make something like the stars and planets accessible to anyone. Regas says he was “surprisingly nervous” to step into the man’s shoes, but soon got more comfortable — with help from the crew telling jokes to keep him loose. He aims to keep the show pretty much the same in terms of tone and content, but will happily use the latest technologies to better illustrate his points or explain the science behind the stellar lightshows.

The new Star Gazer will take advantage of technological developments, but the sense of fun and wonder will remain the same as it always has. Photo courtesy Dean Regas
Regas is unsure how many competitors he’ll have for the position, or even if PBS’ goal is to have a single host or a few, but I can’t think of a better person to get the public interested in the sights above them. So give the new Star Gazer a shot, and if you like Regas as much as we do, let your local PBS station know!

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