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Mysterious observatory evacuation stirs alien conspiracy theories

The FBI showed up and evacuated the remote Sunspot solar observatory in southern New Mexico. Almost a week later, no one knows why.

Dunn Solar Telescope

The Dunn Solar Telescope at the Sunspot solar observatory hides most of itself underground.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

Corners of the internet are atwitter about a possible alien coverup after reports that a Blackhawk helicopter and federal agents swooped in and inexplicably evacuated a remote part of New Mexico, including a prominent solar observatory. 

FBI agents showed up at the Sunspot solar observatory in tiny Sunspot, New Mexico, on Friday and shut down the facility, evacuating the local area, including the town post office. 

"There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers, but nobody would tell us anything," Otero County Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News. "I don't know why the FBI would get involved so quick and not tell us anything."

Five days later, the observatory's website confirms the entire facility is closed to both staff and the public until further notice. 

"The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time," AURA spokesperson Shari Lifson said in an emailed statement. "It's a temporary evacuation of the facility. We will open it up as soon as possible."

The FBI field offices in Albuquerque and in El Paso, Texas, didn't respond to a request for comment. 

Meanwhile, in the vacuum created by the lack of an official explanation, plenty of people on YouTube and social media and in tabloid publications have stepped in to suggest their own.

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Some say the evacuation could be part of a government effort to cover up a discovery involving aliens, an impending solar flare or something else extra-planetary. Others on Reddit and elsewhere think the security issue may involve a foreign power attempting to use the observatory's antennas to spy on nearby White Sands Missile Range. 

The observatory was built by the military in 1947 when it realized the sun could interfere with radio communications. The National Science Foundation ran the facility from the 1960s until this year, when operation was transferred to AURA and New Mexico State University. 

Hopefully it isn't now in the process of being unwillfully transferred to aliens or foreign spies. We shall see. 

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