back to article New MeX-Files: The curious case of an evacuated US solar lab, the FBI – and bananas conspiracy theories

The mysterious shutdown and evacuation of a solar research laboratory, tucked away in a forest in New Mexico, USA, has sent the internet abuzz with a flurry of conspiracy theories. The Sunspot Solar Observatory (SSO), located in the Sacramento Mountains, was switched off earlier this month, and staff ordered to leave. The FBI …

If it was solar flares, you'd think we would have noticed after a week.

I, for one, welcome our new spotty faced sun overlords.

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Anonymous Coward

There's an obvious explanation to all this,

Here's some drone footage of it closed,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7-Md5af9_4

They also shut down the local post office,

https://www.kvia.com/news/new-mexico/national-solar-observatory-usps-office-in-sunspot-nm-evacuated-for-safety-reasons-/792020771

So If I was to hazard a guess I would say Aliens have sent something in the post. Simple logic saves the day.

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Usual American drama

I guess some conspiracy nutjob who also moonlighting as mail bomber must have accodentally sent the wrong package to the wrong address... time to clean up the shed Joey.

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Alien

Re: Usual American drama

I guess some conspiracy nutjob who also moonlighting as mail bomber

That's what they want you to believe. They only closed the post office to make something nasty sent through the mail seem like a plausible reason for shutting down the lab.

When the solar observatory accidentally took a picture of the alien spacecraft, their leader on Earth had to act immediately, but fortunately he's dictator of the largest country on Earth and recently managed have a stooge installed as president of the United States. He can't afford to be discovered until his plan - in collusion cooperation with his stooge - to destroy America from within and throw the world into chaos is complete so the invasion can begin. I'll bet he can't help but laugh to himself over the irony of his stooge's tirades against illegal aliens. He even gave him the MAGA phrase, but he knows it really stands for Make Aliens Great Again!

I should watch it, I think QAnon started as a joke, too...someone somewhere is going to believe this shit!

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Alien

Re: Usual American drama

Alienthrax: Anthrax with Alien DNA.

Meanwhile, Mulder has been spotted in Salisbury.

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Anonymous Coward

A plausible scenario was that a small quantity of mercury was delivered by post for some maintenance work on the telescope mercury bearings. The package arrived with the container broken causing mild concern about the toxic mercury vapour and prompting an evacuation as a precaution till is was cleaned up and vented. The FBI was called as in the norm when toxic hazards arrive in the post.

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Anonymous Coward

Yawn

My money is on the whole thing is due to someone finding some old sample of radioactive or toxic material in the basement left & forgotten from some long ago experiment that occurred in the 1950's. Maybe it got spilled as well.

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Anonymous Coward

The solar telescope floats upon a huge mercury bearing. Tens of gallons of the stuff.

Probably related to that.

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There are plenty of 'isolated' spaces that float on mercury, and while it is poisonous it is hardly a major public threat or difficult for the average person to acquire.

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Coat

" it is hardly ... difficult for the average person to acquire"

Where do you get it from? Mars? From the invisible man? No:-

H.G. Wells.

p.s. Interestingly, the Sun is quite quiet at the moment. See for yourself.

https://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime/c3/512/

Have a guess what that bright dot on the right is! Here's a clue.

https://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Solar

Coincidence? I think not.

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A well engineered mercury bearing only needs a surprisingly small amount of mercury. Even if it is quite large, you only need a tiny gap between the outer bowl and the thing floating in the bowl. When visiting lighthouses I've been surprised at how little mercury they use to float their lenses.

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Pint

"H.G. Wells"

A pint for you sir and well deserved!

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It's dues to the tens of gallons of toxic mercury used for the solar telescope's large float bearing.

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Silver badge

Because this is the only place in the US that has a lot of mercury in one place? Hardly. Hell, my high school science teacher had a big flask filled with the stuff. I'll bet a lot of older high schools have pounds of mercury sitting in a forgotten closet somewhere.

If you want some, and live in the US, buy it by the half pound and they'll ship it to your house:

https://www.sciencecompany.com/Mercury-Metal-quicksilver-3X-Distilled-12lb-P16388.aspx

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WTF?

You're kidding, right? Cody of YouTube fame has literally bucketfuls of the stuff, enough to float a full-size anvil on (which he did...) - and I don't remember any MiBs closing him down...

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But Cody's mercury wasn't turning red. And liberals fulminating against the new solar minima demanded the FBI close the centre until their climate jolly in SF was complete. One didn't get the memo and took a more literal and liberal approach to fulminate. It's a sensitive matter, said the FBI.

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Bronze badge

I always WONDERED why they used Mercury bearings when modern silicone oils (non-conductive) or something like Mobil SHC 527 Series hydraulic oil that resists high temperatures and high pressures can be bought by the barrel at a much reduced environmental cost versus Mercury!

Try the Mobil SHC 527 stuff for better safety and high-performance in your astrometric products!

https://www.mobil.com/en/industrial/Lubricants/Products/Mobil-SHC-527

You can also use MAGNETIC BEARINGS or FERRO-FLUID for damping purposes which Cadillac does for their MagneRide shocks on their high end CTS-V sports cars!

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Silver badge

I always WONDERED why they used Mercury bearings

Maybe because the tiny group of engineers and specialists who build astronomical instruments are familiar with mercury, not the alternatives.

My division of an aerospace company loves metals, and it likes generous mid-range alloys like 6061 aluminum and precipitation hardened stainless steels (17-4, 15-5, etc.) When we recently needed a stronger, more fatigue-resistant aluminum alloy that led us to pick from the 7000 series, we had to learn partly by trial and error how to deal with its its forging, heat treating, and repair/rework behavior. It's been an expensive learning process figuring out an aerospace industry workhorse alloy because no one on the project has worked with it before.

If it hadn't been for a customer both willing to fund our learning curve and remain unyielding on over-the-top safety margins, we'd be back to 6061 in a heart beat.

So I can completely imagine some instrument maker faced with the tight budget of a grant-funded astronomy lab sticking to old, tried-and-true mercury solutions rather than trying to research and master replacement materials.

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What environmental costs for mercury?

It isn't like the mercury used to float instruments / rooms / etc. leaks out into the environment, or is difficult to capture down the road when the facility is demo'ed.

Besides, if you want to worry about mercury getting into the environment you first need to shut down all coal burning power plants operating in the region, and clean up every fly ash dump. Before those are taken care of, worrying about "environment costs" from using mercury to float a telescope is ludicrous!

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Black Helicopters

They will be closed until the scientists support the theory that the sun shines out of the US President.

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china... its all about china

energy from the sun you say... I think we want those blueprints, just post them to us...

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Re: china... its all about china

Not China, just some arch villain generating limitless power with diamond encrusted panels. It must be true, I saw a 90minute documentary about it ... someone called Bond was heavily involved ...

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LDS
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Joke

Shutting down a solar observatory is just part of the plan to make coal great again.

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Joke

You left out a few words...

<quote>They will be closed until the scientists support the theory that the sun shines out of the US President's ass.</quote>

There!!!

FTFY

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Re: You left out a few words...

If that were true, we'd be in darkness, as Mike Pence's head would be in the way.

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Re: You left out a few words...

<quote>They will be closed until the scientists support the theory that the sun shines out of the US President's ass.</quote>

There!!!

FTFY

Come on, the president doesn't have a donkey... does he?

Were on a UK site arse is more appropriate.

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Re: You left out a few words...

If that were true, we'd be in darkness, as Mike Pence's head would be in the way.

How could Pence's head possibly fit in there, when Trump's own head was there first? And Trump has a big head, the biggest head there is...just ask him!

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Re: You left out a few words...

"We're"

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I can reveal

It's aliens, they are invading us as we speak. I have been fighting them for weeks, they are very small, their craft look like mosquitoes. I have been using a tennis racket to kill them but they keep sending more.

Bug spray helps to clog their engine intakes after a while they crash. They tried to talk to me by tellypathy I could hear tiny voicesin my head but I ignore them and kill them anyway.Don't be fooled if you see a mosquito it's an alien kill it.My cat told me they are from another galaxy where they have no food.

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Re: I can reveal

I knew it, all hail our feline saviours, for they alone know the truth!

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Re: I can reveal

"I have been using a tennis racket to kill them but they keep sending more.

Bug spray helps to clog their engine intakes after a while they crash."

I've always said physics works better than chemistry for killing bug.. er I mean aliens. Hit 'em with a shoe, the tennis racket technique is full of large holes. Their chemists will eventually concoct an antidote to the bug spray.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can reveal

I believe, this makes my case for the Foo Fighters being not just a rock band but their having an actual mission of save us from the alien threat of a Foo invasion with a solid wall of sound (a shout out to Elton John there). We owe the Foo Fighters more than we know!

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Re: I can reveal

"...our feline saviours..."

All your solar observatory are belong to us.

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Alright, Beatrice, there was no alien.

The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO.

Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket, and refracted the light from Venus.

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Simple,

They have discovered proof that Trump is not an alien after all.

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Anonymous Coward

I think that'd be more frightening than finding proof that he is an alien.

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Devil

Proof

A reliable source told me that Trump was born on Uranus. That's why he a total arsehole!

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Pint

Re: Proof

I love the partisanship whenever Trump is insulted and the downvotes accrue. FFS people, get a sense of humour. He's only a politician (and newly minted at that), not the saviour of the human race. It's alight to insult or laugh at pols, even if you support them.

Have a pint and calm down

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Re: Proof

I downvoted because the joke was obvious and unfunny. I'm not his biggest fan, but OMG TRUMP! doesn't make something funny or interesting.

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Black Helicopters

The Lord is Coming Soon

Helio-phenomena encode communications from the cosmic unconsciousness. Someone at the facility has cracked the code and the Feds have stepped in. Simples.

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Silver badge

Re: The Lord is Coming Soon

I AM ALREADY HERE!!

I will be at the The World's End Pub tonight.

Please bring all requests in a plain envelope containing the request and an item of value ( gold or gems)

Be early! Time is short!

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AURA get your ears on

AURA is the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, not some kind of shadowy military outfit.

How can you be sure, huh? HOW CAN YOU BE SURE?!

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Re: AURA get your ears on

AURA is the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, not some kind of shadowy military outfit.

How can you be sure, huh? HOW CAN YOU BE SURE?!

Because they study the sun. And you can't do that from a shadow can you? Obvious when you think about it.

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Re: Shadowy outfits

Because they study the sun. And you can't do that from a shadow can you? Obvious when you think about it.

Hard to study the sun without casting some shadows though. That's pretty much the definition of shadowy isn't it?

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Black Helicopters

FBI?

So given the list of things the FBI is primarily responsible for investigating:

Terrorism, Counter intelligence, Cyber crime, Public Corruption, Civil Rights, Organised Crime, White-collar crime, violent crime and WMDs then it seems fairly obvious why this site was shutdown.

Obviously this wasn't an "observatory" at all but a Solar collector weapon of mass destruction (possibly the work of the reverse vampires hired by the Rand corporation in conjunction with the saucer people)...

We are through the looking glass people.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: FBI?

"saucer people", you mean like the ones out of Beauty and the Beast?

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Anonymous Coward

Either a Stranger Things type inter-dimensional portal Hawkins incident or the beginnings of Resident Evil.

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Silver badge

I'm betting on Red Lectroid activity. I've checked the Banzai Institute's Twitter feed. It seems that they're investigating.

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Alien

Location! Location! Location!

White Sands missile range to the Southwest, Roswell to the Northeast!

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They've obviously found the sixth infinity stone...

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