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By Lou Marzeles

Hundreds of lunations later, Stout retires


Lou Marzeles

A FEW WORDS: Steve Stout pauses to compose himself during an emotional moment in his talk Thursday to the Greater Goldendale Area Chamber of Commerce on his retirement from the Goldendale Observatory.

Steve Stout’s career has been astronomical.

Ask him how long he was at the Goldendale Observatory before he retired last Friday, and he doesn’t give your common answer. He responds with lunations, the full phases of a moon cycle, each being 29.530589 days (or 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and three seconds). He was at the Observatory for some 400.5 lunations. “Do the math,” he said at a special ceremony Thursday at the Glass Onion honoring him for his service. No one pulled out a calculator. “That’s 32 years, four months, and 22 days,” completing the task for the lunation-impaired.

Thursday Stout talked about his career in Goldendale in more terrestrial phraseology for the earth-bound members of his audience. October 13 this year marks 40 years since the Goldendale Observatory was opened regularly to the public, so Stout’s connection with it extends all but eight of those years. His start was quiet, a mere faint glow, like the celestial objects amateur astronomers love to find. “We don’t like the bright things like the full moon,” he said. “We go after star clusters, nebulas, and galaxies. Seeking, exploring the universe. That’s the fun of an amateur astronomer.” Stout still his telescope from when he was 12 and first began scanning the skies.

After securing his Bachelor’s degree in physics, Stout found he didn’t have the funds to pursue a degree in astrophysics. He ended up in Seattle for 11 years doing computer and electronics work and connecting with the Seattle Astronomical Society. During his time there, he and members of the society made their way over to the Goldendale Observatory. He’d borrow a key from the non-profit corporation that ran the Observatory back then, and he was a kid in a star store, up all night with unsupervised access to the large telescope.

“One of the club members in Seattle with me was a former director of the Observatory,” Stout recalled, “and whenever I’d come and visit, I’d ask him, ‘Do you need any help, do you need any help, do you need an assistant?’”

Turns out they did. “He told me on a Thursday they were looking to hire somebody,” he said. “He dropped my name in, and so on the Friday of that week I got a call from my now-predecessor on Saturday. So I came over on a Saturday and interviewed with a group of the corporation members. A half a dozen of them gathered up in a room at the Observatory and interviewed me. After that they asked me to step out in the hallway while they discussed whether they would hire me or not. I don’t know if any of you now remember some of the board members, including Dr. Kubler and Dr. Timmer. Dr. Timmer was retired and originally from the Netherlands, and he still had quite an accent, and so after a few minutes of waiting out in the hallway, the door opened and Dr. Timmer came out and looked at me and said, ‘Mishter Stout, come in and be happy.’”

And he was. And for more than three decades he helped a lot of other people be happy gazing into the inky void far above the lights of Goldendale.

“For 32 years, four months, and 22 days,” Stout concluded in his remarks Thursday, “I carried on the tradition of sharing my hobby with everyone. Thank you.”


Reader Comments

TheRebelOne writes:

I am really happy at I was able to bring my kids to the observatory while he was still around. He truly is an asset to Goldendale! He was a wealth of knowledge and I really love seeing people who thoroughly enjoy what they do. Thank you Steve for your hundreds of lunations at the observatory.


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