As The Cincinnati Observatory’s outreach astronomer, 37-year-old Dean Regas educates thousands of students and visitors each year. Now his audience is going national. Starting October 3, Regas will co-host Star Gazers, a revamp of the beloved PBS show hosted for 34 years by the late Jack Horkheimer.
“I’ve never taken an astronomy course in my life. I worked at Burnet Woods, and they had a planetarium there. My new boss said, ‘You’re going to be giving shows, and your first show is next week.’ So I had to learn quickly because the first group was Girl Scouts, and they’d kill you.
Astronomy got me with its certainty. You know where everything is going to be.
It’s kind of surreal that I’m in the same position Jack Horkheimer was for all those years. It made me a little nervous at first. So I can’t watch my first couple of shows—I just looked so uncomfortable.
Thinking back on the show, part of me would think, Oh man, that’s cheeseball. That was all the technology they had: flip him around, throw him around places. But that has found traction. Even though it’s so cheesy, it’s part of the thing.
I have no idea what the new format will look like—but I think there are hover boards involved.
I can’t talk the same way that Jack did. I found myself starting to imitate him, and I thought, No, this isn’t right. I even wanted to have a different catch phrase at the end because I thought it was kind of sacrilegious to say his thing. I had a few that I was tossing around…I said, ‘Keep looking up and say Hi to the stars tonight.’ And they actually let that run. But then, it just kind of died out.
I’ll be co-hosting with James Albury. If you liked the geekiness of Star Gazer, it’s going to be doubled. And hopefully, I’m going to be the cooler one.
It’s the only show that almost dares you to go outside. It says, This is what’s out there right now. Turn off the TV and get out there.”
→ Fox 19 News is getting in on the game—the station has created the Star Gazing Report with Dean Regas. He gives local astronomy highlights for the week in the 4 a.m. timeslot.
→ Regas started as a history scholar. Now he focuses on observational astronomy, or what you (and the ancients) could see with the naked eye.
→ The Cincinnati Observatory has two antique telescopes—one of which is 168 years old, the oldest working telescope in the country.
→ In 1999, the observatory worked with about 1,500 people. Regas’s outreach programs have increased that number to 21,000.
Originally published in the October 2011 issue.