For more than two decades an astronomy-themed bed and breakfast in the Okanagan provided guests with not only a place to spend the night, but a tour of the universe.
Observatory B&B patrons gazed at the cosmos from an ultra high-definition telescope perched on the roof for the last time this weekend.
Amateur astronomer Jack Newton and his wife Alice, who own the B&B in Osoyoos, about 120 kilometres south of Kelowna, are retiring. Jack said his favourite part of running the business has been showing guests outer space for the first time.
"It just blows their socks off," Jack said. "To be able to do that gives me so much pride and excitement."
Guests have seen the sun, moon, stars, planets, meteor showers, and other deep-sky objects up close through the telescope.
Jack and Alice Newton stand in front of some of Jack's astrophotographs. The couple say they're going to miss entertaining guests at their astronomy-themed B&B in Osoyoos, B.C. (Robert Berdan)
Because it has such a high resolution, guests have been able to see hundreds of stars even in the daytime. And his second smaller telescope, called a Hydrogen Alpha telescope, allows an up-close view of the sun and its eruptions.
"It's the pure joy of understanding where you are . . . it's spectacular," he said.
Alice said many guests have an emotional reaction to exploring the sky for the first time, and describe it as a life-changing experience.
"You can take a look at Saturn and get goose bumps," Alice said. "They really knew they were looking in space then."
Inside the observatory's dome. Beneath the large telescope is a small gold-colored Hydrogen Alpha telescope, which is used to view the sun. (Robert Berdan)
Above all, Alice and Jack said they will miss their guests, who range from professional to amateur astronomers to people with little astronomical knowledge who are simply intrigued.
The couple has seen children grow up as they host them over the years and then bring their own children to learn about space.
Jack said he plans to continue looking at the universe through his scope almost every night.
"The sky is always there, but we never get tired of it," he said.
An out of this world experience
Patrick Parenteau and his wife first visited the B&B in 2001 on a spontaneous trip to the Okanagan after their travel plans were cancelled following 9/11.
The couple, who are amateur astronomers, have stayed at the Observatory every August since then.
Parenteau said looking through Jack's telescope for the first time was overwhelming and inspiring and ultimately led him and his wife to buy his own telescopes.
Parenteau will remember Jack and Alice's hospitality and looking into deep space during visits he describes as "out of this world."
A lifetime of discovery
The couple opened the B&B in 2000, moving to Osoyoos after Jack's job as a manager with Marks & Spencer evaporated when the company closed its Canadian stores.
But Jack has spent his whole life studying astronomy. His astro-photography has been published by National Geographic, Life Magazine, and NASA.
He has written a number of astronomy books and received several awards, including from the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada. He was even honoured with the Queen's silver jubilee medal.
A photo taken from the Newton's observatory of the elephant trunk nebula. About 3,000 light years from earth, it is thought to contain a nursery for many young stars. (Submitted by Alice and Jack Newton)
He has discovered or co-discovered over 200 supernovae. One of these discoveries landed him time on the Hubble Space Telescope, making him the first Canadian amateur to do so.
"Here is a Canadian kid getting time on the Hubble space telescope to look at supernovae that he discovered," said Jack. "It was pretty exciting."
An image of the sun and its corona that was visible during a solar eclipse, taken with Jack's Hydrogen Alpha telescope. (Jack Newton)
For Alice, learning about space alongside her husband has been a spiritual journey.
"We go through our lives thinking we're so special, and we're not even a little bit special," said Alice. "We mean nothing in terms of the cosmos, and it's humbling just to examine your little spot."
Jack's opinion of the possibility of extraterrestrial life?
"There's life everywhere, absolutely everywhere."