An update on that mysterious observatory closure last week is aptly summarized by the Buzzfeed headline, “New Mexico’s Solar Observatory Is Finally Reopening But The Whole Thing Is Still Pretty Weird”:
A solar observatory in the mountains of New Mexico has reopened 10 days after it was suddenly closed and its employees evacuated for a mysterious security threat, baffling locals, the internet, and whipping conspiracy theorists into a frenzy.
On Sunday, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), announced that it is reopening the Sunspot Observatory, which it manages, and that employees and the residents who had been forced to leave their homes on the site are now allowed to return.
“AURA has been cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak. During this time, we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents,” Shari Lifson, an AURA spokesperson, said in a statement Sunday. “For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.”
The statement provided no further details on the nature of the presumed threat, or on the status of the investigation. […]
Of course, that’s just what the authorities would say if the telescope had detected aliens or an apocalyptic solar storm, isn’t it? 🤔
But even some former NSO employees and other scientists have raised questions about the mysterious shutdown, calling it “fishy” and “pretty weird.”
“Nothing like this has ever happened before at an observatory,” John Varsik, a data scientist and telescope operator at Big Bear Solar Observatory who worked at Sunspot about two decades ago, said Friday.
“It’s all very fishy,” he said.
Here’s a nice rundown of the top theories on the closure.
Perhaps we’ll learn more when the new presidential alert system is rolled out this week:
The Trump administration will send a message to all US mobile phones on Thursday, as it tests an unused alert system that warns the public about national emergencies.
Phones will make a loud tone and have a special vibration according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which will send the alert.
The test message will be headlined “Presidential Alert” and will go on to read “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
US mobile phone users will not be able to opt out of the test.
Are we quite sure that’s what the message will say? Because I’m predicting a very special message of a different sort… and the famous five-tone sequence from Close Encounters of the Third Kind would make for a perfect alert sound.