Mysterious closure of New Mexico solar observatory was due to FBI child pornography investigation: report
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A temporary closure at the National Solar Observatory's facility in Sunspot, N.M., was tied to an FBI child pornography investigation, according to court documents.

The Associated Press reports that the Sunspot Solar Observatory, which closed from Sept. 6-17 for a previously unspecified issue, was searched by FBI agents for computers, cellphones and other devices owned or operated by the facility's janitor, Joshua Lee Cope, who lives near the facility in a trailer on property owned by his parents.


An FBI spokesman told the AP on Thursday that Cope, 30, has not been charged with a crime but remains under investigation. The facility's chief observer discovered a laptop belonging to Cope several months ago containing child pornography but did not report it after being "distracted" by an unspecified issue, the AP reported, citing an FBI search warrant affidavit filed in federal court.

The facility initially closed after Cope made erratic statements about the possibility of a serial killer entering the facility and killing an employee. Those remarks were made after he discovered that his laptop was missing, according to court documents obtained by the AP.

The facility, which is operated by the National Science Foundation in cooperation with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, captures some of the clearest images of the sun possible.

The two groups posted a message on the facility's website about the temporary closure and urged visitors to tour the facility upon its reopening.

“With the excitement this closure has generated, we hope you will come and visit us when we do reopen, and see for yourself the services we provide for science and public outreach in heliophysics,” a post on its website reads.