Sunspot Solar Observatory Shutdown Tied To Child Pornography Investigation

The Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico was suddenly evacuated and shut down on Sept. 6 without explanation, prompting out-of-this-world speculations.

Many point to the possibility of aliens and UFOs at the facility, but new reports revealed the true reason for the 11-day closure.

A search warrant filed in a U.S. District Court in Las Cruces revealed that the FBI was investigating one of the janitors of the facility for the possession and distribution of child pornography.

According to NPR, an FBI agent wrote in her affidavit that she was probing activities of an individual who was using the observatory’s wireless internet service to download and distribute pornography.

The probe began after investigators linked uploaded and downloaded child porn materials to the observatory’s IP address.

In an interview on Aug. 21, the facility’s chief observer told agents that he discovered a running laptop with child porn on it at an empty office. The chief observer said he failed to report this at the time because he was attending to an urgent matter at the facility.

The chief observer also informed the agents that the only person who had access to the facility around the time child porn was accessed was a janitor who started to work at the facility a year ago. The janitor had a key and unlimited access to the building.

After the agent seized the laptop, the janitor, unaware of the seizure, claimed to be missing some items and became increasingly frantic, approaching the chief observer with comments and questions about the missing items.

Child Porn investigation At Sunspot Solar Observatory
Featured image credit: GuHyeok JeongPixabay

“(The janitor) had continued to look feverishly through the facility and continued to make comments about the lax security,” the search warrant reads, as reported by the Albuquerque Journal.

On Sept. 6, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which operates the observatory, suddenly closed the facility. Those who work at the observatory and those who live at the sites were also asked to leave.

AURA said that the decision to evacuate is a precautionary measure, citing that a suspect in an investigation potentially poses a threat to the safety of local staff and residents.

Authorities did not arrest or file charges, and no arrest warrant was issued.

A warrant issued by the U.S. magistrate in Las Cruces nonetheless showed that on Sept. 14, agents removed an iPad, cellphones, hard drive, laptops, and thumb drives from the home of the suspect.

The observatory was reopened on Monday.