Photo: Samat Jain (Flickr)
It has been a week since the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico, was shut down, evacuated, and visited by FBI agents—and the undisclosed “security issue” behind all this activity remains a mystery to the public.
Theories about the true reasoning behind the shutdown range from an accidental interception of military signals to captured proof of alien life.
Now, James McAteer, director of the Sunspot Solar Observatory, has seemingly ruled out one of those theories. McAteer told local news outlet KOB that the “telescope did not see aliens. All data will be made public in its unaltered form. Nothing is hidden or kept secret.”
McAteer, a professor at New Mexico State University, clarified to Gizmodo that we probably wouldn’t even find extraterrestrials with a telescope. “Any aliens in our vicinity of the Universe are very likely microbial,” McAteer told Gizmodo. He also dispelled other theories. “There was no killer solar storm. Solar storms happen all the time. No observations of an imaginary planet.”
But he said he does not know why the FBI were involved. New Mexico State University runs the telescope, but the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) operates the property. “AURA closed the site. It was their decision,” McAteer said. “Neither AURA or local police have confirmed why, but I suggest approaching them as primary sources.”
Shari Lifson, a spokesperson for AURA told Gizmodo that “nothing has changed, the facility remains closed.”
FBI’s Albuquerque Division did not respond to a Gizmodo request for comment.
AURA’s silence on the matter is only encouraging more wild speculation and citizen sleuthing. YouTuber Dj.R@NSOM of 4:20 TV FREEDOMIST FILMS filmed his walkthrough of the area on Thursday and observed the premises is still completely abandoned. He found nothing that sheds light on the security issue, but he did find a discarded X-Files DVD resting on top of a trash bin.
AURA spokesperson Shari Lifson sent Gizmodo the following comment:
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) has decided that the observatory will remain closed until further notice due to an ongoing security concern. The rest of the National Solar Observatory (NSO) facilities remain open and are operating normally.