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Astronomie - Sunspot Observatory closed due to security issue -Update

14.09.2018

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A stop sign and yellow crime scene tap at the entrance to Sunspot Observatory's entrance Friday morning. The facility was closed due to a security issue.
Dylan Taylor-Lehman/Daily News

SUNSPOT, NM – The Sunspot Observatory is temporarily closed due to a security issue at the facility that’s located 17 miles south of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains Friday, an Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) spokeswoman Shari Lifson said.

“The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time,” Lifson said. “We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure. It was our decision to evacuate the facility.”

She said she cannot comment on the specifics of the security issue.

MORE: Celebrating National Moon Day at the Sunspot Astronomy and Visitor Center on July 21

The facility is the National Solar Observatory facility at Sacramento Peak that’s managed by AURA.

Apache Point Observatory (APO) is currently in operation. APO was not evacuated. APO is about a mile away from Sunspot observatory.

She said AURA does not have a comment about the type of security issue at this time.

“I am actually not sure (when the facility was vacated) but it will stay vacated until further notice,” Lifson said. “It’s the people that vacated. At this time, it’s the facility that’s closed.”

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Sunspot Observatory entrance was blocked with a stop sign and yellow crime scene tap Friday morning. The facility is temporarily closed until further notice.
Dylan Taylor-Lehman/Daily News

She said the facility is closed to the public and Sunspot employees.

“We don’t know that yet (when the facility will open again),” Lifson said. “We are working with the proper authorities on this issues. The local authorities do know and are aware of the situation. I don’t know when the facility was vacated but it was within the last day. It’s a temporary evacuation of the facility. We open it up as soon as possible.”

She said she cannot comment on whether the FBI was involved in the situation.

Otero County Sheriff Benny House said the Otero County Sheriff’s Office was asked to standby.

“The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on,” House said. “We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say.”

He said he has a lot of unanswered question about what occurred at Sunspot.

“But for the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there,” House said. “There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.”

The Daily News contacted the Albuquerque FBI spokesman seeking comment for this story, but telephone calls and messages were never returned.

House said he pulled his deputies from the facility after there was no identifiable threat.

“They wanted us up there to help evacuate but nobody would tell us anything,” he said. “We went up there and everything was good. There was no threat. Nobody would identify any specific threat. We hung out for a little while then we left. No reason for us to be there. Nobody would tell us what we’re supposed to be watching out for.”

House said he doesn’t understand why Sunspot didn’t call or notify them of the situation.

“They’re not federal employees,” he said. “It maybe somebody who threatened one of their workers. If that’s the case, why didn’t call us and let us deal with it. These guys are regular workers that work for this company. I don’t know why the FBI would get involved so quick and not tell us anything.”

Quelle: Alamorgodo Daily News

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Closure of NM solar observatory a mystery

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The truth is out there – but nobody will go on the record about it.

Rumors are swirling and authorities are tight-lipped following the evacuation of an observatory in southwest New Mexico last week.

The National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, near Alamogordo, was evacuated last Thursday, along with a nearby post office, and has remained closed since without explanation.

According to the facility’s website, the observatory and surrounding area are closed until further notice “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

“The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy is addressing a security issue … and has decided to temporarily vacate the facility as a precautionary measure,” AURA spokeswoman Shari Lifson said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”

In the Lincoln National Forest, the observatory has been involved in solar research since 1947. Since the closure, the news has spread nationwide with headlines like “I’m Definitely Not Saying It’s Aliens,” and lighting up internet message boards with fervor and speculation.

Lifson said AURA is working with the proper authorities, but would not name them.

The closure even caught Otero County Sheriff Benny House by surprise.

“Some folks that work at the laboratory called us, asked us if we could send a deputy to stand by while they were evacuating,” House said during a phone interview Wednesday. “All the employees were packing up and leaving.”

House said they didn’t get any more answers at the observatory, but staff members told deputies the FBI had been there.

“Nobody would give us any information on what was going on,” House said, before the phone call cut out and repeated attempts to reach him again were unsuccessful.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher would not confirm or deny the agency’s involvement but referred all questions to AURA.

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Rod Spurgeon called the situation “strange” after authorities walked into the nearby post office without warning and told the clerk to evacuate.

“I wasn’t present … so I’m not sure which law enforcement agency told us to evacuate,” Spurgeon said.

He said no timeline was given on when the office would be able to reopen.

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