Dean Regas lives in a time warp. He’s in touch with the past and can see into the future. The universe, he says, looked the same to the ancients who first mapped the stars as it will to our descendants who bolt into the blue beyond.
“It’s important,” he says, “because in studying astronomy, you’re tapped into the cycles that have interested and fascinated people since the beginning of time.”
Regas discovered his passion when he literally stumbled into it. Unsure about his future, the 1996 history graduate left his high school teaching job and returned to the Cincinnati Parks Department, where he volunteered during college, to be an outdoor education specialist teaching children about nature. One of the parks he was assigned to was Burnet Woods, which has a planetarium. He was given one week to prepare his first astronomy show for Girl Scouts.
“Once I got in there and the lights went out, something happened to me and I transformed from a natural person into a stargazer,” he says.
Space became his vocation. He’s taught himself everything he knows and monitors astronomy web sites and journals daily. His work at Burnet Woods, where he expanded the planetarium program from 20 shows a year to 200, caught the attention of the Cincinnati Observatory, which hired him in 2000 as an outreach astronomer. The observatory is a perfect fit for Regas: He can focus on teaching astronomy to all ages in a unique historical setting. The observatory is the oldest planetarium in the country and houses the oldest professional telescope—a wood and brass model built in 1843—in the Western hemisphere.
“We’re seeing the same stars and the same things people have seen throughout history,” he says, “and it makes me feel a part of everyone else who has wondered about it.”