Jack Horkheimer (1938-2010)

Jack Horkheimer, Public Television’s “Star Gazer” and the director of Miami’s Space Transit Planetarium,’ died Friday, August 20th, at the age of 72. WUWT readers may fondly remember him at sign off time on PBS-TV, impishly sitting on the ring, grinning that cheesy smile from under his “rug”, and telling us us “whats up” in the sky this week. He made astronomy fun.

From Spaceweather.com Dr. Tony Phillips:

Jack was a giant of astronomy outreach, bringing the heavens down to Earth for millions of people from all walks of life. Among them was the author of this web page as a young student in Florida so many years ago. Jack’s loss is keenly felt. Farewell, Jack Horkheimer, and “keep looking up!”

More at the Miami Herald.

Personally, even though I never met him, I feel like I lost an old friend.


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August 21, 2010 12:39 am

That is sad news. I remember him fondly from growing up back when PBS had things on that could only be seen on it and were truly worth watching: Monty Python. Dr. Who and at the ripe old age of 13 loved the Masterpiece Theatre presentation of I Claudius. Then at the end of the night when PBS was signing off, there was Jack telling you all the things you could see just by walking out your backdoor.

Chris Thorne
August 21, 2010 1:02 am

A great guy, someone who brought his playful sense of humor to a field he obviously loved. He will be well remembered and sorely missed.
Want to help memorialize him in a way that he would appreciate?
Work to minimize the modern plague of unnecessary urban light pollution at night, which so often washes out the astronomical vistas which Jack Horkheimer worked to explain and popularize.
Urban residents need some illumination after dark for safety and utility and commerce. We could comfortably get by with a lot less than we have now, and we could engineer what we do use in ways that reduce “waste” light.
I have met adults who have grown up in modern big cities who have never seen any celestial body in the night sky other than the Moon and occasionally Venus at her brightest. That’s a sad and sobering prospect for anyone who values science.

Gilbert K. Arnold
August 21, 2010 1:21 am

I always enjoyed watching Dr. Horkheimer when I was growing up. There was always something interessting. Sometimes it was just a re-confirmation of things I already knew, but he always managed to make it sound new. He will be missed and the younger viewers will not know what a gift he had for communicating this fascinating subject.
RIP Dr. Horkheimer

August 21, 2010 2:08 am

We would go to the planetarium for school field trips. He always had the best anecdotes and made astronomy fun for all ages. It was because of Jack that I bought my first telescope. I will remember him every time I set it up. And I will miss him.

Jean Meeus
August 21, 2010 2:34 am

Asteroid No. 11409, discovered in 1999, has been named Horkheimer in the honor of Jack Horkheimer. It moves around the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Its orbital period is 2079 days (5.7 years).

August 21, 2010 2:55 am

We never got any of his programs over here in the UK, just some of Carl Sagan’s. Our equivalent is Sir Patrick Moore, knighted for his long running public service in bringng astronomy to the masses through his long running program ‘The Sky At Night’.
I wish he was still around to give some insight on the new discovery I just made yesterday.
RIP Jack.

August 21, 2010 5:12 am

He will always be remembered.

Mike McMillan
August 21, 2010 5:28 am

I had some YouTube Debussy playing in the background this morning when I heard that Star Gazer theme, and thought of Jack. An unhappy coincidence to then see his name on the WUWT RSS feed.

August 21, 2010 5:36 am

Chris Thorne:
I have met adults who have grown up in modern big cities who have never seen any celestial body in the night sky other than the Moon and occasionally Venus at her brightest. That’s a sad and sobering prospect for anyone who values science.>
RIP, indeed, Mr. Horkheimer. He worked tirelessly to introduce people of all ages to the wonders of the universe.
My sister-in-law, visiting from Washington DC, looking up at our beautiful dark Kansas sky: “Wow, what’s that?!”
My husband: “The Milky Way.”
I’ve been a dark-sky country girl almost all my life and I sometimes take our view for granted

August 21, 2010 6:10 am

I always sort of rolled my eyes when Jack’s segment showed up. It was campy, silly, overdone green-screen, but it was always timely, accurate, told people about things things they never saw, but encouraged them to go take a look.
I was quite surprised when I bought Isao Tomita’s “Snowflakes Are Dancing” on a whim and discovered I now had “Star Gazer’s” theme music.
Jean Meeus says:
> Asteroid No. 11409, discovered in 1999, has been named Horkheimer….
Ah yes, I had forgotten that, thanks for the reminder. A fitting reward.

August 21, 2010 6:13 am

Sad news indeed. I can’t remember when I first saw Jack on PBS but I was hooked when I did. He certainly made the heavens fun, I am sure he is up there somewhere now.

August 21, 2010 6:42 am

Dr. Jack Horkheimer was influential in promoting amateur astronomy, he was the Director of the Miami Museum of Science & Space Transit Planetarium.
He organized volunteers to bring telescopes to many towns during the Comet Shoemaker-Levy Collision with Jupiter in 1994.
He’s website is at http://www.jackstargazer.com/
Keep looking up!

CPT. Charles
August 21, 2010 6:43 am

boballab says: August 21, 2010 at 12:39 am
I hear ya. Those were the days.
Yeah, I remember his segments late at night; he made the night sky (for me) something to look forward to.
Condolences to his family and friends.
Well, now he has the best seat in the house.

August 21, 2010 6:52 am

Very few people make a mark on us during our lives. Most of those who do leave a negative, still less leave a positive. This guy, I’ll call him ‘old whats his name’, left a positive mark on me. I never remembered his name, and won’t again forever more, but he was one of those “Positive Few” to me. He’s one of those people, if I ever make it “Up There”, whose voice I’m going to instantly recognize the next time I hear him.

August 21, 2010 7:02 am

I always enjoyed his talks on PBS. Thanks Dr. Horkheimer.

August 21, 2010 7:27 am

Awww…how sad. I have fond memories of him, both on PBS TV and NPR spots. No matter how bad a mood I was in seeing him on the TV would always bring a smile to my face, and I’d sit and watch thru his spot, usually learning something in the process. He brought a smile and enlightenment, not a bad way to be remembered IMO.
Godspeed Jack.

Bad Andrew
August 21, 2010 7:38 am

Back in the day, I always looked forward to watching Star Gazer when I would stay up late on summer nights when school was out. Jack always seemed to share the wonder I had and still have when I look up at the stars at night.
What a wondrous Tour of the Heavens he gets to go on now. You know I’ll be first in line to get a tour ticket when the bus comes around for me.
Rest in His Peace, Mr. Horkheimer

August 21, 2010 8:09 am

Passage of an icon of American culture. May he rest in peace, and continue to dance among the stars he loved, and encouraged us to love, as well.

David Ball
August 21, 2010 8:27 am

My sincere condolences to the Horkheimer family. I remember going outside in the evening and looking for Venus under Mr. Horkheimers direction and being astonished that I actually recognized a planet. A profound moment for an 8 year old boy. I think of that moment every time I see Venus. He will be remembered.

August 21, 2010 8:42 am

Claude Debussy will never be the same.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
August 21, 2010 9:22 am

Dang revisionism…
Star Hustler was the name I knew, and so did many others. I can read the stated reason for the name change on the ‘Star Gazer’ FAQ, but still… Running things backwards to erase the remembering of “Hustler” as the title just ain’t right. It was a good title then, and a good show with that title.
May Jack Horkheimer and his toupee rest in peace.

Tanner Waterbury
August 21, 2010 10:00 am

Oh that is indeed unfortunate! I think it was him that got me into astronomy in the first place. Each time after he was on, I would go outside and look for the certain hotspots he would point out to look for. You will be dearly missed Jack!

August 21, 2010 10:22 am

Farewell to one who has gazed upon the heavens and reached for the stars. The enlightenment he spread, though ofttimes delivered whimsically, brought the heavens down to Earth for the masses, making our short time on this wandering, lonely planet that much more pleasant, understandable and enjoyable.
Requiescat in pace, Mr. Horkheimer. I’ll always “Keep Looking Up!”, thanks to you, sir.

August 21, 2010 11:14 am

I still have a set of VHS tapes from the days when he was the “Star Hustler”…now that I think, they are still ‘new’…never unwrapped them…just purchased ’cause the name switch was do to the PC mindset.

August 21, 2010 11:35 am

I used to catch Jack many years ago talking about the stars, the stars in sky that is.
I always found him fascinating.
Keep Looking Up!

Mike McMillan
August 21, 2010 12:48 pm

The Star Gazer theme was Isao Tomita’s version of Debussy’s Arabesque #1 –

August 21, 2010 1:45 pm

Anything by Claude Debussy makes one gaze at the stars, no doubt.
Rest in peace, Jack.
Norfolk, VA, USA

David A. Evans
August 21, 2010 2:52 pm

I guess this was your ‘Patrick Moore’, (not the Greenpeace one,) so I feel your loss in the same way I will feel the loss of Patrick when he, inevitably, passes away.

August 21, 2010 2:52 pm

As a kid growing up, I would always wait until midnight and sneak out to watch his show, and to listen to the great theme, which if we got to hear more than a minute of on PBS before they went to static was a real treat.
He was an iconic figure in astronomy to a generation of amateur Star Hustlers, was always informative and educational, and truly made the night sky a much more fascinating place than it had been. It truly is like losing an old friend.
I’ll always remember to keep looking up.

August 21, 2010 5:50 pm

You can be an archeologist your whole life and never get to visit the Pyramids of Egypt. You can be a geologist and never see the Hope Diamond. But the stars and planets are yours mine and everyones. You can pull them out and hold them in your hands, the original jewels with your own eye for the price of a pair of binoculars and a fence post to lean on. Astronomy is special that way. This is what Jack taught me.
I haven’t had my telescope out of storage for quite a long time. Living in Sacramento with all these bright lights it really defeats the purpose. For these things ; tracking the red spots on Jupiter, using high power and a detailed map to tease Neptune’s disk out of a crowded star field, viewing Saturn with the ring edge on, showing your kids the craters on the moon; the gravy of life.
I really needed an excuse. Thanks Jack, for giving me an excuse.
In memory of Jack Horkheimer, the Star Hustler.

August 21, 2010 6:08 pm

Jack Horkheimer, the Star Hustler for the week August 17th-25th (youtube video).

August 21, 2010 6:58 pm

I’m with boballab….I was (and still am) a great big PBS dork. Loved Jack Horkheimer and am sad to hear of his passing, but just think if the view he has now!

August 22, 2010 2:47 am

A true bon vivant of popular astronomy is gone. Bon voyage, fellow stargazer.

August 22, 2010 8:11 am

He will be missed. An entire generation of our country was introduced to star gazing through Mr H’s regular spots and always present enthusiasm. I always appreciated his show for updates because frequently I didn’t have time to keep up with the events in the heavens.
RIP Mr H and keep looking up!

August 22, 2010 1:25 pm

Dang – I’m sorry to hear he’s gone. Listening to the Debussy brings it back.
Always cheesy, Mr. H’s show – and ALWAYS worth watching. RIP.

Larry Fields
August 22, 2010 7:30 pm

Ric Werme says:
August 21, 2010 at 6:10 am
“I was quite surprised when I bought Isao Tomita’s “Snowflakes Are Dancing” on a whim and discovered I now had “Star Gazer’s” theme music.”
Thanks, Ric. I liked the virtuoso whistling in the theme music. Serious whistlers don’t get much respect in mainstream entertainment. Let’s see. There’s Colonel Bogey, from the old movie, Bridge Over the River Kwai. There’s a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western from the 1970s. (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?) Trilling octaves ain’t easy. And more recently, there’s the X Files theme music

September 1, 2010 2:36 pm
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