The Top 5 Sunspot National Solar Observatory Conspiracies Ranked
On Sept. 6, the FBI raided the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Sunspot New, Mexico, evacuating the facilities, as well as the local post office and a number of residences. They gave no context why and more than a week later, everyone is still in the dark.
And now that the observatory’s sudden closure made international headlines, let’s take a moment to sift through some of the conjecture and conspiracies floating around the internet. Given the information we have, or lack thereof, we’ll outline the top five theories we’ve come across and rate their potential viability.
Of course, this rating system is highly subjective and open to individual interpretation, but contrary to mainstream headlines about conspiracy theorists “going mad” or “losing their heads,” we here at Gaia are enjoying the speculation, as long as it turns out that no one is actually in danger or hurt by these unknown events. But based on reactions from the observatory’s administrators it doesn’t seem as if anyone was harmed
The following conspiracies will be ranked on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being least likely and 10 being most likely.
A Chemical Leak
The possibility that a chemical leak led to the abrupt evacuation of the observatory and surrounding residences seemed highly plausible, considering the observatory’s telescope uses a significant amount of liquid mercury.
Add to that the fact that a Blackhawk helicopter rapidly shuttled in federal agents making it seem like there was a level of urgency typically reserved for situations requiring containment or quarantine. However, this theory has largely been debunked in that an official statement from the director of the observatory denied any spill and assuaged people’s fears.
“There’s no mercury incident. That’s a completely different set of protocols that would not have involved them locking all the doors. We have a very regular maintenance routine. There is no cause for concern there.” Sunspot Observatory director R.T. James McAteer told USAToday.
While this claim seems supported by the lack of any HAZMAT cleanup team and minimal cordoning off of the area, one citizen journalist who recently ducked the caution tape and explored the observatory’s campus said he noticed an unsettling chemical smell in the area. Listen to him talk about his recent venture into the observatory’s campus in this interview with Rex Bear.
We’ll give this one a 3/10
They Discovered a Large, Potentially Dangerous Solar Flare/Geomagnetic Storm
This was one of the more popular theories from the get-go due to the nature of the facility. Clearly an observatory dedicated to studying the sun must have found something potentially threatening, such as a large, Earthbound solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME) days away from annihilating our power grid. In fact, we are overdue for such an occurrence, like the Carrington Event that lit up the night sky in 1859, which would have wreaked havoc had there actually been electrical infrastructure in those days.
Internet sleuths, most notably on the r/conspiracy subreddit, pointed out that a number of webcams at observatories across the world went down shortly after the story broke on Sunspot. Additionally, the well-known European astronomical website spaceweather.eu suddenly went down and remains so, instead directing traffic to the Royal Observatory of Belgium.
The following is a list of some of the observatory webcams around the U.S. that appear to be down at the time of this writing. A disclaimer should be made that it’s not necessarily confirmed if they went down around the time of the Sunspot Observatory’s evacuation or if they’ve been down for a while.
Apache Point Observatory:
Mount Lemmon Observatory:
Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory – Whipple Observatory / Mt. Hopkins Webcams:
Mauna Kea Observatories:
Webcam located at Mauna Kea observatory at the University of Hawaii Hilo
Webcam from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope observatory in Hawaii:
One YouTube user also brought attention to the fact that there are seven hours of observation data missing on the Naval Solar Observatory’s SECCHI feeds starting on Sept. 6, the day Sunspot was evacuated.
But what makes this hypothesis seem shallow is that if there were data showing an apocalyptic solar storm headed our way, one would assume that the observatory would be bustling, rather than abandoned. Wouldn’t astronomers be paying extra attention to an impending catastrophe, rather than running for the hills? Well, if the movie 2012 taught us anything, maybe not.
We give this one a 6/10
They Discovered Definitive Evidence of Extraterrestrial Life
This is the one theory everyone secretly hopes is real (or not so secretly depending who you ask). It’s also the one that mainstream media likes to mock us for, but hey, it’s only a matter of time until they eat their words. So, considering the confluence of strange astronomical phenomena as of late, let’s take a look at the evidence.
The observatory’s location in Sunspot and the plans for its construction were first proposed in 1947, the same year of the infamous UFO crash at Roswell, just over 100 miles away. Coincidence? Probably, considering the observatory wasn’t actually constructed for some years later, but fun to note.
What many believe is that the observatory viewed some type of alien craft, prompting federal agents to swoop in once they caught wind. They quickly shut down the post office to prevent documents from being mailed, detained all employees to prevent them from going public, and disconnected all communication towers on the premises.
There’s also the possibility that someone observed classified alien technology at White Sands Missile Range, considering Sunspot sits atop a hill with sweeping views of the base.
But contrary to this extraterrestrial evidence is the fact that the observatory’s director issued a statement saying that they didn’t find aliens and that the facility would release all observation data leading up to its closure, completely unadulterated. But of course he’s going to say they didn’t find aliens. So, for now we’ll say the jury is still out.
Please be aliens, please be aliens, please be aliens.
We give this a completely unbiased 8/10
The Government Is Preparing Us for Disclosure
Much like the idea of predictive programming – where subtle hints of a larger disclosure are fed to the public through media – some believe the government may be testing public reaction to a shocking event. Raiding a solar observatory, shutting down a small town, and giving no one any context is obviously going to spark conspiracy, conjecture and possibly panic. Surely, they knew the reaction they would elicit.
And so far, all of this has come to fruition, except maybe that you might replace panic with frustration. But as odd as this may sound, there is one piece of evidence that might lend itself to this theory, and that’s the fact that a collector’s edition DVD of the X-Files was found sitting on top of a trash can in the main building of the observatory… Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.
But in reality, the reason mum’s the word from the FBI likely has to do with an actual discovery, or its prosecutors working frantically to develop a case with sensitive information. And that X-Files DVD is probably someone trolling us.
This one gets a 2/10
Espionage by a Foreign Entity
One of the most realistic scenarios for the government shutdown of the Sunspot Observatory is the likelihood that it had been infiltrated by foreign agents using the facilities towers and vantage point to collect intel on regularly tested technology and military development programs conducted at White Sands Missile Range.
The sheriff’s account of the evacuation mentions government agents climbing and inspecting the facility’s radio antennas and towers. Could they have been searching for wire taps or other devices used to clandestinely transmit data to an undercover operative’s home country?
Some have pointed out that the facility’s staffing and operations have dwindled over the past few years, with many operations being transferred to other facilities operated by the NSO in Boulder, CO and Maui, HI. With fewer personnel regularly on site in such an isolated area, it might have been easy for a foreign spook to slip in and plant a surveillance apparatus on one of the towers completely unnoticed.
And just like that, a clear view of one of the government’s most secretive missile testing facilities is under reconnaissance. This would have presented a “security issue” as it has been described, instigating federal agents to lock down the facility once someone noticed.
However, some have pointed out that military branches in charge of White Sands and Holloman AFB have their own police forces and investigative branches. But when it comes to counterintelligence, it is in fact part of the FBI’s job description.
While this isn’t as exciting as aliens, it is the most sensible explanation and compared to the aforementioned scenarios, this one seems to satisfy Occam’s Razor – the most basic explanation is probably the correct one.
We’ll give it a 9/10
Watch this episode of Beyond Belief in which Grant Cameron discusses the government’s role in disclosure: