“Keep looking up!” With that memorable phrase, Jack Horkheimer would close yet another addition of his 5 minute program on mostly naked-eye observational astronomy that would air on PBS stations all over the nation. Now, the “Star Gazer” who helped bring the heavens to millions all over the country, and Earth, has died at the age of 72.
Horkheimer's death on Friday was confirmed via a spokesman for the Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium. Horkheimer had been director of the Planetarium for over 35 years. However, it was the 5 minute “Stargazer” mini-program that brought Horkheimer worldwide fame.
“Star Gazer” began as “Star Hustler” in 1976 in the Miami market. The show would run for almost 10 years before it went national in 1985. The show then began to be aired internationally in 1989. The name of the show was changed to “Star Gazer” in 1997 because Internet searchers would often come up with results for the adult magazine when looking for information on the show.
In the early years, PBS stations would often sign-off for a period of time overnight. It was at this last window of airtime that Horkheimer's show was aired. Now, with 24-hour broadcasting on PBS, “Star Gazer” was often slotted in between shows in the evening. However, despite the name and time changes, the show's focus remained the same for nearly 35 years in that it spotlighted observational astronomical events for the week, with a bit of fun facts thrown in for good measure.
With Horkheimer's death, astronomy has probably lost its most famous ambassador since when Carl Sagan died in 1996. Besides the loss of the iconic TV personality, the status of the show is now uncertain. Even if it continues, it just won't be the same without Jack at the helm. However, there will always be other great astronomical resources out there providing plenty of reasons to “keep looking up!”