September 16, 2018
Link to story on KOB.com: https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/sunspot-observatory-to-reopen-following-mysterious-closure/5072677/?cat=500
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – After mysterious circumstances closed the Sunspot Solar Observatory in southeast New Mexico on Sept. 6 – prompting conspiracy theories of close encounters and men in black suits – it was announced over the weekend that the facility will “transition back to regular operations” on Monday.
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy announced the reopening on Sunday, saying it had been cooperating with local authorities on the “investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak,” where the observatory is located. The developments come after over a week of minimal details from law enforcement, leading to theories of all kinds from New Mexicans and others across the country.
“We became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents,” AURA wrote on its website Sunday. “In light of recent developments…we have determined there is no risk to staff.”
Last week, officials with the Otero County Sheriff’s Office told KOB they had “no information” on what exactly federal authorities were looking into at the facility, only confirming the FBI was involved.
AURA says that, given the high-profile nature that has surrounded the observatory’s closure, security will be present at the facility’s reopening.
The group added that remaining tight-lipped about the closure was necessary to protect their investigation’s integrity, saying it recognized the frustration that strategy caused.
“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,” AURA said. “That was a risk we could not take.”
AURA is a collaboration of mostly U.S. institutions, and some international entities, which promotes astronomical research, according to its website. They operate several observatories, including Sunspot.
No details on the investigation into criminal activity in the area were offered.