The shutdown by the FBI of the Solar Observatory educational facility in New Mexico has generated speculation as to what is behind the sudden intrusion of a federal law-enforcement agency into the daily routine of astronomers. Media reports refute an X-Files-style plot with extraterrestrials, leading to a more prosaic, but no less fascinating tale.
According to the Daily Express, the Sunspot Solar Observatory, a part of the National Solar Observatory network maintained by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), was likely hacked by a foreign agent to monitor US military activity in New Mexico.
In particular, UK-based media offer a theory that an intruder or agent affiliated with a foreign country gained access to one of the Observatory’s antennas where a spying device was installed.
The media outlet suggested that this theory was not far from the truth and explained the rapid FBI operation that locked down and evacuated observatory staffers, along with the entire compound surrounding the scientific facility.
The Sunspot Solar Observatory is near the US Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range, also located in New Mexico. These US Army facilities are among the most secretive military installations in America. White Sands has reportedly been used to test newly-developed weapons and is notorious as the world’s first testing ground for the atomic bomb.