Review of Jack Horkheimer’s “Star Gazer” formally known as “Star Hustler”
Every week in my Astronomy class my professor plays the most recent episode of “Star Gazer”, to encourage his students to conduct naked eye observations of the sky. According to the “Star Gazer” official website, each episode is available for viewing by individuals, classrooms, astronomy clubs, and more, free of charge.
“Star Gazer” is a television series produced in Miami, Florida primarily focusing on naked eye observations of the night sky. The show was created in the 1970’s and now reaches millions of people through most PBS stations worldwide. For each episode, there are two versions, a five minute show and a condensed one minute show. Each episode features certain celestial objects that can be viewed with the naked eye during the week ahead.
Jack Horkheimer (1938-2010) was the creator of the public broadcasting show, “Star Gazer”. As the host and writer of his own show, he was recognized as the first and only public figure to popularize naked eye astronomy. During his lifetime, Horkheimer made many appearances on national talk shows and news channels such as CNN, Larry King, Charlie Rose, just to name a few. Also, he was the recipient of several awards honoring his passion and contributions to astronomy.
Following Horkheimer’s death, the show lived on and began to feature a guest host each month. To continue Horkheimer’s past routine, the guest presenter of the show also explains what astronomical events will be occurring in the sky for the following week as he sits on Saturn’s rings. No matter the host, the show is very informative focusing solely on astronomical events that you can view with your naked eye.
Although I did not begin to view the show until after Horkheimer’s death, I thought it would be interesting to view some of his older episodes when he was still the host.
When Jack Horkheimer was the host of “Star Gazer”, he always displayed a great deal of enthusiasm showing his true passion for astronomy. Although guest hosts have now taken his place, they also exhibit much enthusiasm and devotion to astronomy. The only thing missing is Horkheimer’s spirit and his wholehearted comicalness. Since the show airs on PBS around signoff (after midnight) you could always expect to have a good laugh from his presentation.
After watching a few of his episodes, I found “Star Gazer” to be quite addicting. Even if I didn’t plan on observing the sky that week, I always learned something interesting during the show. Astronomy is not a very well-known area of science and “Star Gazer” does an excellent job at explaining astronomical events and showing people that many of these events can be observed with the naked eye. The host uses catchy phrases and storytelling to explain astronomical objects and help the viewer remember how to identify them.
Each episode is overflowing with detailed information on the subject matter with specific instruction on when and how to view celestial objects in the sky. For example, the presenter will not simply show you where to look for the moon tonight and what to look for, he will go further to explain the phases of the moon and why they occur.
Even though I would describe the show to be very informational, five minutes is not enough time to describe all astronomical events that are going to occur in a week. Although this is true, viewers may lose interest or change the channel if the program runs too long. “Star Gazer” made the right decision to choose only to focus on certain celestial objects during each episode because giving the viewer too much information may just confuse them. The object of the show is not to teach astronomy, it is to show people how to successfully observe the sky with the naked eye.
Anyone who is somewhat curious about astronomy would sincerely enjoy watching Jack Horkheimer’s “Star Gazer”. Given that the show airs very late on PBS, it is recommended that Past and present “Star Gazer” episodes be viewed on the internet by visiting jackstargazer.com or by searching on YouTube.