Sunspot Solar Observatory

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Christopher K.
Posts: 4372
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Sunspot Solar Observatory

Post by Christopher K. » September 13th, 2018, 2:53 pm

Here's an odd story related to me by Amy...the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico is closed and the nearby U.S. Post Office apparently evacuated...but noone so far has issued an explanation.

Sunspot Solar Observatory website:
https://sunspot.solar/

Local coverage:
https://www.alamogordonews.com/story/ne ... 227788002/
https://www.kvia.com/news/new-mexico/na ... /792020771

Christopher K.
Posts: 4372
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Sunspot Solar Observatory

Post by Christopher K. » September 14th, 2018, 5:50 pm

Don't tell me noone is talking still...
https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/ ... servatory/
https://www.iheart.com/content/2018-09- ... ors-swirl/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/na ... story.html

There's nothing at Astronomy and Sky & Telescope so far. This is beyond bizarre. Earlier this week, Amy and Tom and I thought about a mercury spill; that wouldn't close the Post Office too, though? I believe the two buildings are less than a quarter-kilometer apart.

mhess
Posts: 22
Joined: December 27th, 2010, 1:31 pm

Re: Sunspot Solar Observatory

Post by mhess » September 15th, 2018, 10:18 am

I suspect there is some kind of contaminant on the site. I heard mercury discussed as a possibility. I imagined someone doing something that would disperse it. If I remember right they have one mercury mirror on site. A fire in that section could potentially cause mercury gases. Alternately, if someone was acting with ill intent, tossing a small explosive into the vat could splatter fine particles of mercury everywhere. It would take months of clean up and may very well be impossible to clean micro-droplets tucked into tight spaces. In such a case I could see any nearby buildings, like the post office being evacuated. Another possibility, someone may have shipped a white powder (Anthrax, Ricin, or a fake powder) through the mail. That would explain the post office closure. Who? Maybe a disgruntled employee, like the graduate student who shot the telescope mirror at McDonald Observatory.

Christopher K.
Posts: 4372
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Sunspot Solar Observatory

Post by Christopher K. » September 15th, 2018, 6:53 pm

Those are interesting theories. Some sources say that the people entering and exiting the building aren't wearing protective gear, but maybe that's inaccurate.

Melanie doesn't live too far from there. Do you think she knows anything?

Meanwhile, I just knew Coast to Coast AM would get into the act...
https://www.coasttocoastam.com/article/ ... y-closure/

Christopher K.
Posts: 4372
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Sunspot Solar Observatory

Post by Christopher K. » September 19th, 2018, 11:48 am

And just as mysteriously, the New Mexico observatory reopens. From "undisclosed security issue" to "ongoing criminal investigation", I don't know what to make of this. Amy says the staff is hiring security until the "issue" is resolved.

More information:
https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astrono ... -shutdown/
http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/09/ ... issue.html
https://www.npr.org/2018/09/17/64880450 ... co-reopens

Christopher K.
Posts: 4372
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Sunspot Solar Observatory

Post by Christopher K. » September 26th, 2018, 3:45 pm

Society is headed toward Halloween season, and HRPO continues what it began last year: on the last open Friday before Halloween the Lecture Series presents "The Spooky Sampler", which covers the bizarre and unusual topics of astronomy and space science. It is a safe bet that the Sunspot shutdown will be mentioned. "The Spooky Sampler" is Friday 19 October, 7:30pm at HRPO. The event has no admission fee and is aimed at a general adult audience.

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