Warrant: Sunspot Solar Observatory closure linked to child porn investigation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A mysterious solar observatory evacuation in remote New Mexico appears to be linked to a child pornography investigation, the Associated Press reports.

The Sunspot Solar Observatory in the mountains of southern New Mexico was unexpectedly closed down and evacuated without a publicly stated reason two weeks ago, sparking conspiracies about a possible alien encounter.

While local law enforcement was requested at the scene in the town of Sunspot, they said they were left in the dark by the FBI, who also did not respond to the media's request for comment.

It is scheduled to reopen on Monday, officials managing the facility said.

A search warrant filed in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces shows the FBI began investigating after a wireless signal at the observatory accessed child porn multiple times since January.

The warrant also says the observatory’s chief observer found a laptop with child porn in an office. The FBI says an observatory employee owns the laptop.

The warrant says the National Solar Observatory and the National Science Foundation shut down the facility after the employee made veiled threats following federal agents’ seizure of the computer.

No arrests have been made.

"We recognize that the lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some. However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take," the association said.

Located atop Sacramento Peak, the observatory was established in 1947.

It overlooks the Tularosa Basin -- an expanse of desert that includes the city of Alamogordo, Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, White Sands National Monument and the site of the world's first atomic bomb test.

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