As the American Military became increasingly interested in solar physics during the Second World War, the need for a solar observatory became apparent. Designed for the purpose of studying our planet’s host star, the Sunspot Solar Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the Sacramento Mountains in Sunspot, New Mexico. Its doors opened in 1947, and to this day New Mexico State University and the National Solar Observatory operate the facility, allowing the public access to telescopes.
Originally created to compliment the findings of the High Altitude Observatory (HAO), Sunspot replaced it as America’s premier solar observatory due to better weather conditions and observation. Sunspot hosts 5 telescopes, its primary facility housing the Richard B. Dunn telescope (previously called the Vacuum Tower Telescope).
Located 85 miles southwest of Roswell, New Mexico, the Observatory made the news recently for its sudden closure and recent reopening, some pointing toward various conspiracy theories.
On September 6, 2018,the Sunspot Solar Observatory and a nearby US Postal Office in New Mexico were evacuated with public explanation or plans to re-open until further notice. As of September 17, 2018, it has reopened, with the official reason for the closure due to a security threat.
One would like to imagine that scene in Contact when James Woods and his cronies take over the Very Large Array facility, but if I had to take a stab at the fringes, I’d hypothesize that this has something to do with the Parker Solar Probe.