A strange and mysterious issue is being blamed for the closure of a sunspot observatory in New Mexico. The timing of the “security issue” which caused the closure is odd as well, considering the sun’s current activity as it heads into its solar minimum cycle.
The Sunspot Solar Observatory that was closed is located atop Sacramento Peak and overlooks Tularosa Basin, which includes the city of Alamogordo, Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and White Sands National Monument. Authorities had evacuated all employees from the site, including four from New Mexico State University. About a dozen residents around the site were evacuated and the U.S. Postal Service decided to evacuate employees, too, according to a report by the Alamogordo Daily News.
According to Fox News, the observatory is set to reopen after the temporary closure due to an undisclosed “security issue.” But that hasn’t stopped people from asking questions about this odd event which has been shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Theories have surfaced as is always the case when people believe secrets are being kept from them.
The Sunspot Solar Observatory no longer faces a “security threat” to the staff, however, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) said in a statement Sunday. The facility has been closed since September 6 but will reopen sometime today.
“We recognize that 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,” officials said.
Fox News further reported that the Otero County Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News the sheriff’s office was asked to stand by and mentioned that the FBI was involved. “The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on,” House told the newspaper. “We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say,” he continued, just as confused as everyone else appeared to be.
In the statement from AURA, it is claimed that the only reason they are reopening the facility is because of the publicity many have given to the sunspot observatory’s closure. “Given the significant amount of publicity the temporary closure has generated, and the consequent expectation of an unusual number of visitors to the site, we are temporarily engaging a security service while the facility returns to a normal working environment,” the statement said.
It’s unclear what the security threat to the observatory was. The FBI referred all questions back to the association but aren’t answering many of them anyway. But there are still many unanswered questions puzzling even those involved according to House.
Due to the number of people who showed up questioning the sunspot observatory’s closure, security guards from Red Rock Security had been summoned to guard the perimeter. The Alamogordo Daily News reported that one of the guards told the newspaper at least 35 people had shown up by Friday.
So as we approach solar minimum, why is there so much secrecy still surrounding this observatory’s closure? Who knows, but the internet isn’t short on theories.