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Mysterious 'security issue' forces a solar observatory to be evacuated

The sudden closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico has everyone talking -- everyone but autho...

Posted: Sep 17, 2018 2:16 AM
Updated: Sep 17, 2018 2:16 AM

The sudden closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico has everyone talking -- everyone but authorities.

The facility focuses on solar research, and its telescope is one of the best ground-based solar observatories in the world. But on September 6, the observatory was evacuated because of a "security issue," and it remains closed and under FBI investigation.

Observatories and telescopes

Space and astronomy

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Government and public administration

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Government organizations - US

US Department of Justice

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US federal government

Extraterrestrial life

Government officials have not given a clear explanation of what the issue is, however, and this has prompted wild speculation.

One popular theory circulating online is that aliens or UFOs could be the reason for the concern. The observatory is about 85 miles southwest of Roswell, where a mysterious object crashed in 1947, launching decades of talk about the wreckage.

Not to worry, according to the FBI, which told CNN affiliate KOAT that extraterrestrial activity is not the problem.

Adding to the mystery is that residents around the area were forced to evacuate without any explanation, KOAT reported.

"We were told we had a credible threat through the FBI and to leave," evacuee Sean Williams told the station.

CNN contacted the sheriff's office in Otero County, but a spokesperson said the office is not working with the FBI and couldn't provide any answers.

The FBI transferred CNN's request for comment to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), which manages the observatory.

Though AURA provided no immediate response, the association had released the following statement:

"AURA is addressing a security issue at the National Solar Observatory facility at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico and has decided to temporarily vacate the facility as a precautionary measure until further notice," read the statement.

"All other NSO facilities are open and operating normally. AURA, which manages Sacramento Peak with funding from the National Science Foundation, is working with the proper authorities on this issue."

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