• May 17, 2022
 Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Update on the Solar Observatory Closure Mystery

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: Update on the Solar Observatory Closure Mystery

Last week, I told you all about the mysterious closure of the New Mexico Solar Observatory that took place between September 6th and September 17th. During its closure, many theories were circulating as to the reason.

The most likely of these, given its proximity to both Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range, was that of possible espionage or terrorist activity.

The only facts that were being released were that the local law enforcement, while called in to help with the evacuation (which included the resident scientists as well as the local post office), was largely kept in the dark as the FBI conducted the actual investigation. But that was all.

In recent statements released by the FBI and AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy) that the facility was closed while authorities investigated reports of child pornography having been found on the computer of a janitor that worked on site.

Apparently, the investigation initially began back in late July when an agent with New Mexico’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force traced a series of IP addresses with connections to child pornography to the observatory.

According to court documents obtained by KOAT, the laptop was found in one of the empty offices and confiscated by the FBI. Following this, the chief observer allegedly noticed the suspect leaving the office where the laptop had been obtained.

The janitor then began complaining about the lack of security and seemed to search the building while saying it would only be a “matter of time before the facility ‘got hit’” and went on to talk about his belief that a serial killer might end up murdering someone at the observatory.

While the janitor was not named in the court documents and has yet to be charged, it would seem that the mystery surrounding the closure has finally been solved.


To read Amy’s previous stories, click here.

Amy Cooley

A native El Pasoan, Amy Cooley attended Parkland High School before beginning her studies in physics at EPCC. With her love of dark skies increasing, she transferred to New Mexico Tech University where she earned her degree in Astronomy. Moving back to El Paso in 2008, she now wants to share her love of the cosmos with the city she calls home.

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