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Following weeks of speculation on the reason the National Solar Observatory in New Mexico mysteriously closed its doors on Sept. 6, a federal search warrant confirms aliens were not involved after all. A janitor on staff was the reason for the closure, according to Time, after the discovery of a company laptop he used to download and distribute child pornography.
The observatory was shut down following threats against the facility issued by the janitor, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The story seized nationwide attention after the facility mysteriously closed down, leaving news outlets to speculate about the cause. Aliens were at the top of most online speculation, along with anthrax and the interference of a foreign agency.
According to the search warrant, the FBI investigation began after it discovered a wireless signal at the facility accessing child pornography multiple times. The only person who had access to the laptop at the times it reportedly accessed the pornography, according to reporting from the Albuquerque Journal, was a janitor who has been working there for a year.
The FBI seized the laptop, and in the following days, the janitor became increasingly erratic. He complained of “lax security” in the facility and repeatedly approached the chief observer with security concerns. The facility did not choose to shut down until the chief observer became concerned for the safety of himself and his staff on Sept. 5 after the janitor talked about a serial killer in the area who might “enter the facility and execute someone,” the Journal reports.
The FBI has remained quiet on the topic, but the remote facility sent out a tweet on Monday, pronouncing its delight at being up and running again.
Sunspot reopened today bringing out several first time visitors and news crews! Glad to be back open and see the crowds 😊 #sunspotsolarobservatory #backtonormalcy @ Sunspot, New Mexico https://t.co/OhHRa00au7— SunspotSolarObs (@SunspotSolarObs) September 18, 2018
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy released a statement on Sunday, saying that the facility was shut down as a “precautionary measure while addressing a security issue.”
No charges have been filed.
Correction: The observatory closed on it own, independently of the ongoing FBI investigation.
Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.