Sunspot

The ‘Explanation’ for Mysterious Observatory Closure Falls Flat

Maybe it’s just the nature of a good conspiracy theory, but it’s so rare to see something resolve in anywhere near as exciting a fashion as one would have hoped in the fringes of our society.

Perhaps out of curiosity, or possibly general interest, a whole slew of Americans have been following the story of a bizarre observatory closing in New Mexico over the course of the last 10 days.

In the tiny, remote town of Sunspot, the story goes that the FBI swooped in flying a Blackhawk helicopter to evacuate this solar observatory, the post office, and some of the residents.  The local sheriff was told nothing about the reason for the evacuation, even though he and his deputies were asked to assist.  Given the ties to space inherent in the mystery, all sorts of theories emerged in the ensuing days.

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Aliens were landing.  The sun was in imminent danger.  China hacked the radio telescope.  The mercury pool under the color scope was compromised.

Subsequent statements by authorities only further infuriated the public.

Now, in what appears to be considered an “explanation”, we’ve, again, been fed a nothing-burger.

The national Sunspot Solar Observatory in an isolated, mountainous region of New Mexico was set to reopen Monday after it was shut down on Sept. 6 with little explanation.

The group that manages the facility announced on the observatory’s Facebook page Sundaythat it had been “cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak.”

During that time, said the statement from the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), “we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.”

And…?

“AURA determined that moving the small number of on-site staff and residents off the mountain was the most prudent and effective action to ensure their safety.”

The statement did not explain the “criminal activity” allegedly discovered at the observatory, or mention anything about arrests.

It did acknowledge how the “lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some.

“However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take,” said the statement.

This has certainly not slaked the thirst of members of Reddit, who have been actively investigating the observatory’s closing from the beginning.

 

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