Dean Regas had a week to learn about astronomy before his first lecture at the Cincinnati Observatory.
Dean Regas, 43, is an astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory in Cincinnati.
Q: What are your typical lectures like?
A: Normally I give about a 20-minute classroom presentation, to small groups of under 40 people. Afterward we go to the dome, where visitors take turns looking through the telescope. I talk about what they’re seeing and the history of our telescope. Ours is the oldest public one in the United States.
Since [the] eclipse, I’m expanding these talks. Everyone’s talking about it. Experiencing it myself is re-energizing. I want to share my love of the heavens with others.
Q: You’re self-taught.
A: I’ve never taken an astronomy course. My bachelor’s is in history, and my master’s is in secondary education. I was leading nature walks and lecturing at the nature center in a Cincinnati park, Burnet Woods, when I was transferred to the planetarium there.
I had a week to learn about astronomy before my first lecture, to a group of Girl Scouts. I didn’t even know where the North Star is.
Q: How did you learn astronomy?
A: I started by trying to identify stars and constellations visible to the naked eye. The planetarium at Burnet Woods was a good teaching tool because I could simulate everything on the roof of the dome. It helped me figure out where celestial objects are throughout the year and how they move across the sky, which is never in a straight line. Then I used sky simulation software on a computer, which I still use today.
Q: How long did it take to feel comfortable?
A: Initially I worried someone would ask something I didn’t know. Then I went to an industry conference and learned that astronomers have a variety of backgrounds.
I asked an attendee if we were allowed to call ourselves astronomers, and he said, “You get paid to do astronomy, you’re an astronomer.” There are research astronomers and astronomy educators. I’m the latter.
Q: What lessons do you try to impart?
A: One is that everyone can find interesting things about the universe. Also, I ended up an astronomer by accident, but I knew right away that this was my field. I tell kids who are unsure about what they want to do that they need to be patient; they’ll know it when they find it.
Q: What outside opportunities have come your way as a result of your job?
A: I’ve been hired to speak at star parties, where amateur astronomers bring their telescopes to what are considered great viewing areas. This summer I lectured at two national parks: Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon.
Q: How has this career changed your life?
A: I never really noticed much about the universe before. Now when I go outside, I look up and see what’s going on. I feel like I’m in the stars.