Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) mysteriously shut down the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico.
Conspiracy theorists immediately began speculating about what it was which forced such a heavy-handed response from the FBI.
Many believed the observatory had spotted something it shouldn’t – like aliens or an unidentified flying object (UFO) – however, the FBI has since revealed the reason as to why they closed the facility.
According to Reuters, the observatory at Sacramento Peak was shut down for 11 days as part of an investigation into the downloading and distribution of child pornography.
An FBI agent wrote in an affidavit how they were investigating the activities of an individual, who was thought to be using the wireless internet to download and distribute child pornography.
Federal court documents showed on Wednesday (September 19), the individual suspected was employed as a janitor at the observatory.
According to these documents, officials made the decision to close and evacuate the facility over concerns the suspect may pose a danger to others working there.
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), who run the observatory, apologised in a statement for the lack of information at the time.
The decision to vacate was based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for an expeditious response to the potential threat.
We recognize that the lack of communications, while the facility was vacated, was concerning and frustrating for some.
However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation.
The FBI claims the suspect in question has not been arrested or charged, and no arrest warrant has been issued.
A spokesman for the FBI field office in Albuquerque, Frank Fisher, told Reuters the case was still under investigation.
Part of the reason for the rampant speculation was the observatory’s relative proximity to two US military installations and the town of Roswell.
Roswell is, of course, infamous for UFO sightings, most notably back in 1947, when a United States Army Air Force balloon crashed close to the town.
Initial reports suggested the balloon was, in fact, a ‘flying disk’ and ufologists claimed the disk was proof of alien life.
The American military stated it was merely a weather balloon, although declassified reports released in the 1990s revealed there was more to the balloon than met the eye.
The balloon was, in fact, a nuclear test surveillance balloon from Project Mogul – a classified government project to detect sound waves released by nuclear bomb tests which were being conducted by the USSR.
Despite this, and other evidence to the contrary, the ‘Roswell incident’ has become mythologised in US folklore as ‘proof’ the American government is covering up evidence of alien life.
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More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.