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New Mexico observatory closed for a ‘security issue’ to reopen

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FBI mysteriously close observatory in New Mexico

The Sunspot Solar Observatory, located in the vicinity of the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico was closed about an unspecified ‘security problem.’

ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. – An observatory in the mountains of southern New Mexico, which had been closed since early September because of a secret security concern is now scheduled to reopen on Monday, officials of the management of the facility said.

The Sunspot Solar Observatory is no longer faced with a threat to the safety of personnel, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy said in a statement Sunday. The facility closed on Sept. 6.

The association has for the hire of a temporary security team to patrol the observatory when it reopens. “Given the significant amount of publicity the temporary closure has generated, and the resulting expectation of an unusual number of visitors to the website, we are temporarily deploying a security service, while the facility returns to a normal working environment,” the association said.

The authorities have not disclosed the nature of the threat to the safety of the observatory faced. The FBI has referred all questions to the association.

“We acknowledge that the lack of communication, while the facility was cleared was about and frustrating for some. However, our wish to provide additional information had to be weighed against the risk that, if distributed in time, the news alert would be the accused and in the way of the judicial investigation. That was a risk we cannot take,” the association said.

Located atop Sacramento Peak, the observatory was founded in 1947.

It overlooks the Tularosa Basin — an expanse of the desert, which is also the city of Alamogordo, Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, White Sands National Monument and the site of the world’s first atomic bomb test.

The telescope at Sunspot was originally built by the U.S. air force. After a number of years of operation, is transferred to the National Solar Observatory, which is part of the National Science Foundation.

New Mexico State University in 2016 launched, an initiative supported by the foundation to upgrade and update the facility by means of the newly formed Sunspot Solar Observatory Consortium.

Officials said Sunspot is one-of-a-kind telescope produces some of the sharpest images of the sun in the world. Data from observations done in a Sunspot is sent to New Mexico State University servers and can be used by researchers all over the world.

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