Schriever, La. - Ken Stage moved from Harvey to Schriever in 1997. He stepped outside one winter night after a cold front passed through and looked up to the sky.
"And I'm looking up at the Orion Nebula and I said, time to upgrade to a bigger scope," he says.
Stage, a Coast Guard veteran, bought more than one telescope. He owns so many now he can't keep count of them all.
In 1999, Stage opened the St. George Observatory in his back yard. The campus offers some of the most powerful telescopes in the state and one thing this facility has over sites in Baton Rouge and Shreveport, less light pollution.
Stage closed his observatory in 2010, planning to retire. But a school recently called to reserve a trip to the observatory and Stage couldn't resist reopening.
Mother Nature didn't want to cooperate on reopening night, covering the moon and stars with clouds.
Stage had plenty to keep the students entertained, performing experiments using liquid nitrogen, dry ice and even Peeps.
He put the marshmallow Easter candies in a vacuum-sealed tube and increased the pressure to mimic conditions in space. The Peeps grew to twice their normal size.
The clouds finally cleared, allowing the students to get a close up look at the moon.
"We have a curious nature, we like to find things out," says Stage. "Any of these kids that were in the auditorium tonight, they could be the first to stand on the surface of Mars."