Star Gazers (formerly known as Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler and later Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer) is a five-minute astronomy show on American public television previously hosted by Jack Foley Horkheimer, executive director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium. After his death in 2010 from a respiratory illness from which he had suffered since childhood, a series of guest astronomers hosted until 2011, when Dean Regas, James Albury and Marlene Hidalgo became permanent co-hosts. On the weekly program, the host informs the viewer of significant astronomical events for the upcoming week, including key constellations, stars and planets, lunar eclipses and conjunctions, as well as historical and scientific information about these events.
The program is available free to all Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) public television stations, educational institutions and astronomy clubs. A month of episodes can be recorded from a satellite feed which occurs approximately two weeks before the official broadcast dates.
In 1964, Jack Horkheimer started working at the Miami Space Transit Planetarium for the Miami Museum of Science after meeting the museum's president, Arthur Smith. By the early 1970s, he was appearing on news programs talking about astronomy. He was approached by Florida's PBS affiliate, WPBT, to do a series of half-hour programs about astronomy, titled Horkheimer's Heavens. Horkheimer agreed on the condition that WPBT help him create a series of 5-minute shows on stargazing. This was the beginning of Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler.
The show debuted on November 6, 1976 on Florida public television. From 1976 until 1985, the show was very studious, with Horkheimer being calm and speaking quietly like an educator rather than an entertainer. This changed in 1985 after the show's executive producer, Ed Waglin, told Horkheimer that he needed to appeal to a general audience, rather than to astronomers.
In May 1985, the show went national, being broadcast on PBS stations around the United States with the enthusiastic Horkheimer that most people are familiar with. For the first two years of the national broadcast, Horkheimer hated the show and would not watch it, saying, "Well this is certainly different from any Jack Horkheimer that I know." After that, Horkheimer realized that he was playing a character in order to generate enthusiasm for the show. The show started broadcasting in foreign markets in 1989.
From its inception until 1997, the show was named Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler. With the rise of the Internet, however, viewers let the show's producers and WPBT know that, instead of the program's web site showing up at the top of search results, search engines were giving results for the Hustler adult magazine. As a result, the producers renamed the show Star Gazer to avert any confusion, accidental or purposeful.
On August 20, 2010, Jack Horkheimer died. For more than a year after Horkheimer's death, the program continued to be produced under the title Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer, using the same opening sequence which featured Jack Horkheimer's name and face. During that time, the program continued to use the same format with a series of guest hosts filling in for Horkheimer.
The show's theme music from its debut in 1976 until October 2011 was Isao Tomita's electronic rendition of Claude Debussy's Arabesque No. 1, from Tomita's album Snowflakes Are Dancing. According to the former Star Gazer website, this is the most frequently asked question the producers receive.
On October 3, 2011, the program's name was changed to Star Gazers. The show's new opening sequence featured a new logo and new theme music done in an alternative/progressive/space rock style (like Muse). With the name change, the program's format was also changed to include two (and later three) co-hosts who appeared together in each episode. A new website for the show was launched as well. The show still retains the old format of the show using Green Screens, and still ends with Horkeimer's closing phrase; "Keep Looking Up."
The show educates viewers about astronomical events for the coming week and about astronomy and astronomical history in general. Viewers learn about various constellations and how to find different stars. Horkheimer used catchy phrases to help viewers remember the procedures for locating astronomical bodies. "Arc to Arcturus, speed on to Spica", was a common phrase used to define the technique to find Arcturus and Spica using the handle of the Big Dipper. Following the arc of the handle will lead to Arcturus as shown in the diagram.
Another method Horkheimer used to teach viewers about the stars was to tell stories about them. The Pleiades, also known as the seven sisters, was a constellation he would tell stories about. Stars with unique names, such as Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali were also used in the shows to help inform the viewers.
When astronomical events were in the news, Horkheimer would speak of them, giving viewers much more detailed information. When Comet Hale-Bopp arrived in 1997 and when Halley's comet was visible in 1986, he did shows about them. In 1997, specific shows were made when Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars and when the spacecraft Galileo orbited Jupiter, both of which were major headlines in the news.
The show has many catchphrases that viewers associate with Jack Horkheimer. Horkheimer's appearances on the show are always marked with his opening line, "Greetings, greetings, fellow star gazers!" and his signature closing line, "Keep looking up!" These are the most widely recognizable quotes from the show but there were also others in common usage throughout the series.
Horkheimer used "So get thee outside..." to encourage viewers to watch the stars. When describing the heavens he would often say "Let me show you." When introducing a picture of the night sky, he would often say, "O.K., we've got our skies set up for..." and then add a date and time.
Each Star Hustler episode began with the announcer, Big Wilson, reciting this poem as the host walked onto the set:
From 1997 to 2011, each Star Gazer episode began with the announcer reciting the following poem:
The show is produced in advance and one month of episodes is transmitted to PBS stations and others approximately two weeks prior to broadcast. The show is broadcast on over 200 PBS stations. It is also available on NASA's Central Operation of Resources for Educators, VOA TV and the Armed Forces Network. Individuals can download the show free from the official website, view the program on YouTube or watch podcasts via Apple's iTunes Store.
It was originally designed to air on PBS stations just before sign-off, but since many PBS stations now stay on the air continuously, the show is often aired in between other shows. Additionally, WPBT now provides a one-minute "capsule" version of each episode with a brief summary of the week's events.
Episodes usually featured Horkheimer in front of a green screen, where he appeared to sit on top of a planetary ring on one side of the screen. Horkheimer then uses the screen to illustrate starfields and diagrams appropriate to his subject.
Jack Horkheimer was the creator, writer and original host of the series until his death on August 20, 2010. Horkheimer created the series in 1976 in cooperation with WPBT. He had been creating presentations for the Miami Space Transit Planetarium when he started the series. Horkheimer often appeared on news programs to host astronomical events.
Jack Horkheimer's final broadcast was for the week of August 30 to September 5, 2010, and can be seen at "Jack Horkheimer Star Gazer" 5 Minute Aug. 30 – Sept. 5, 2010 on YouTube. The show was his 1,708th episode and was titled, Celebrate Labor Day The Cosmic Way With A Giant Triangle Of Stars Overhead. The show was recorded approximately one month before Horkheimer's death.
Chris Trigg, the Energy Officer at the Miami Science Museum, temporarily took over the position as special guest host while Horkheimer was ill. Horkheimer had previously written episodes for the entire month of September 2010. Trigg stepped in and taped the episodes for that month to keep the show running. His first episode was the show's 1,709th titled, "Mercury In The Morning And Jupiter At Night", and can be seen at Jack Horkheimer Star Gazer 5 Minute Sept.6 – Sept. 12, 2010 on YouTube.
After Horkheimer's death, Trigg took over the position as host and recorded episodes for the months of October and November 2010. The episodes were written and produced by Bill Dishong. The episodes were uploaded to YouTube on September 22, 2010 and can be seen at the Miami Science Museum's channel here (Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer's channel on YouTube). Jack Kelly announced in November 2010 that a national search for a new host would start in December 2010. Dean Regas was the first to try out and, in November 2010, filmed episodes for the month of December. Regas was given topics for future shows and asked to write scripts for the January shows of 2011. Regas went back in December and filmed the January episodes. Ed Romano, an amateur astronomer from Rhode Island, hosted the February 2011 episodes. James C. Albury, Coordinator of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium at Santa Fe College, was the host for the month of April. Dean Regas returned as host for the months of March and May 2011.
In June 2011, Albury and Regas were named as permanent co-hosts. The September 2011 episodes ended with the announcement that the program would be appearing in October 2011 with the new name, "Star Gazers" and the new website stargazersonline.org. Marlene Hidalgo joined the program as its first female co-host in October 2011. Hidalgo was a high school science teacher who had spent more than a decade teaching to students with disabilities. Hidalgo moved with her family to the northeastern United States after making her last appearance on the program, which was broadcast in March 2014.
There have been 39 seasons of Star Gazers and the show has produced more than 1,900 episodes as of August 2014. Horkheimer's last season was 2010 and he had hosted 1,708 episodes at that point before the time of his death.
In 1994, Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler won the Astronomical League's Outstanding Achievement Award.