Sunspot (USA) – Since September 6, 2018, the grounds of the Sunspot Solar Observatory on Sacramento Peak, New Mexico, have been closed, evacuated by the FBI under News Locks, causing guesswork and some conspiracy theories. In a press release, the Observatory has now explained the reasons for the evacuation and wants to resume normal operations on Monday.
The joint press release from the Observatory’s Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) said the shutdown and evacuation of the facility was a safety-related precautionary measure: “The The facility has been closed in an orderly fashion and is currently open again on 17 September. Residents of the site, as well as all employees, will return during the week and return to work. “
The reason for the measures was a “criminal investigation by local law enforcement officials on Sacramento Peak, which suggested that a suspect could pose a potential threat to the safety of all other residents and employees. For this reason, AURA had temporarily decided to evacuate the facility and stop the scientific activities from here.
The decision to evacuate the site was accompanied by questions on how to adequately protect the staff of such a remote facility. Secondly, officials had to be able to respond appropriately to the potential threat situation. “In the light of these circumstances, AURA decided to take the familiar steps to ensure the safety of all parties concerned.
Following recent developments, it has now been established that there is no risk of resuming operation of the plant and that it should be resumed by 17 September today. Due to the international coverage, the number of visitors is now expected to increase, and for the time being more security guards will guard the site than before.
In conclusion, AURA and NSF apologize for the “lack of communication on the reasons for the evacuation measures”, but the need for additional information sharing has to be weighed against the possible risks arising from the situation.