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Newbrook, Alberta, T0A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1995/02/01

Newbrook Observatory Provincial Historic Resource; Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2006
Residence and observatory
Newbrook Observatory Provincial Historic Resource; Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2006
Newbrook Observatory Provincial Historic Resource; Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2006

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1951/01/01 to 1951/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/02/14

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Newbrook Observatory is a 0.82 hectare site located on the edge of the Hamlet of Newbrook, approximately 110 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. The site comprises an observatory with a retractable roof and a residence with an attached two-car garage.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Newbrook Observatory lies in its association with Canadian space research. It possesses particular importance within this area for providing the first North American photographs of the Sputnik I satellite.

The roots of the Newbrook Observatory can be traced to 1946, when the United States and Canada agreed to work co-operatively on space science projects, particularly meteorite observations. The northerly situation of Newbrook - with its clear view of the night sky and its relative lack of auroral interference - made it an ideal location for establishing a meteor observation station to assist in this joint effort. Constructed in 1951, the Newbrook observatory opened in 1952 as a field station of the Stellar Physics Division of Canada's Dominion Observatory in Ottawa. It was equipped with a sophisticated Super-Schmidt Meteor Camera - one of only two used in Canada of a total of just six produced by the Connecticut-based Perkin-Elmer Company. Between 1952 and 1957, the observatory obtained thousands of photographs and spectrograph exposures. This data, combined with similar documentation from the nearby and identically equipped Meanook observatory, was studied by scientists in an attempt to determine the properties of the upper atmosphere. By the late 1950s, scientific and technological advances in rocket science had made it possible for scientists to launch objects into the upper atmosphere, expanding research possibilities and rendering meteor observation largely obsolete. In 1970, the Canadian government consolidated astronomical research and the observatories at Meanook and Newbrook were closed.

In October, 1957, the Newbrook Observatory bore witness to one of the seminal moments of the twentieth century. On October 4, 1957, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) astounded the world by announcing the successful launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to be sent into space. Less than a week later, Art Griffen, resident scientist at the Newbrook Observatory, took the first North American photograph of Sputnik, confirming the Russians' claim. The news of the launch sent shockwaves around the world. The announcement was particularly alarming to citizens of the United States, whose comfortable sense of scientific and technological superiority was deeply rattled. The launch of Sputnik marked the start of the space age and initiated a period of intense competition between the United States and the Soviet Union for dominance in the exploration and colonization of space.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1853)

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Newbrook Observatory include such features as:

- mass, form, and style;
- medium gable roof with dormer and chimney;
- cast-in-place concrete foundation;
- attached double car garage;
- rafter and cross-tie system of roof;
- layered studs, diagonal sheathing, and horizontal bevelled siding;
- interior of gypsum drywall;
- single hung wood-framed windows;
- plain slab doors and panelled storm doors;
- original flooring;
- small crawlspace in basement, accessible from outside by trapdoor;
- floorplan.

- mass, form, and style;
- T-shaped footprint;
- observatory cupola;
- floorplan, including ante room, observation room, dark room in main portion and camera room in wing;
- low gabled roofs covered with corrugated metal;
- slab concrete floor in main unit;
- rafter cross-tie system roof over main unit;
- retractable roof over camera room and associated system of pulleys, cables, and counterweights;
- painted plywood interior walls and ceilings;
- exterior layered with sheathing and horizontal siding;
- camera mount;
- exterior wood frame structure for retraction of roof.




Recognition Authority

Province of Alberta

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Resource

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1957/10/09 to 1957/10/09

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life

Function - Category and Type



Civil Defence Site

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1853)

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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