Amateur astronomy lost one its most iconic figures today. Jack Horkheimer, known to millions as public television's ebullient "Star Gazer," died this afternoon at age 72. The exact cause of death was not disclosed, though he had battled chronic respiratory problems for decades.
Horkheimer had been a fixture at the Miami Planetarium for more than 45 years, where he began as a volunteer and served as its executive director since 1973. But he'll be remembered most for his exuberant and often zany television persona, who helped us all appreciate the breadth and depth of eyeball-only astronomy.
The show started airing locally on WPBT in Miami, then went national in 1985. Along the way his nom de television morphed from "Star Hustler" to "Star Gazer," to sidestep aggressive web-browsing filters.He was so goofy but so enthusiastic. It's my experience that you must project two things as a teacher: love of and knowledge of your subject. Most students will forgive - and usually, embrace - your personality quirks if you show those two traits. So with Horkheimer, a quintessentially lovable nerd.
I love astronomy, and I'm worried that light pollution is ruining it for future generations. We all need it - there's no better way to get some perspective on your life then taking a look up on a clear, dark night. Let's hope someone picks up where Jack left off.