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Were Space and Solar Observatories Shut Down at the Same Time Around the World This Week?

Amongst all the hype over the past couple of weeks about the closure of the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico, has been a persistent rumour – one that takes the story from simply being ‘mysterious’ to downright conspiratorial: that not only had that observatory been evacuated, but that there had been other space and solar observatories shut down at the same time.

The suggestion, of course, was that these observatories were being stopped from observing some ground-breaking celestial event: alien space ships, a civilization-ending solar event, or Planet X revealing itself.

This rumour about multiple observatories being shut down was spread far and wide by popular ‘news’ websites (I use the phrase with a wince) such as Zero Hedge and the UK’s Express – I’m not going to link, because stupid clickbait doesn’t deserve it.

But this is the claim that has been spread far and wide:


 

Just in case you were blowing off the tin-foil-hat views of the observatory closure, we note that all these solar/space cams down at the same time:


 

Now, I’m going to quickly run through why this claim is absolute crap, and do it with minimal effort, because we all have finite lives and who really wants to spend time debunking awful things like this?

Our tool? The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which lets us view pages from websites archived at specific times. Using this, we find that:

So, were all these space observatories shut down around the world at the same time? No, it’s just a collection of broken webcam links…and yet it spread across the globe and made headlines in major outlets because (a) websites will use any nonsense clickbait they can find to get your eyeballs, and thus advertising dollars, and (b) plenty of people consume this sort of thing without stopping to think “well that doesn’t sound likely” and then checking it properly, rather than quickly posting it to social media where it spreads further.

Let’s all try and do better folks, there’s plenty of worthwhile mysteries out there that deserve our time and attention more than this.

 

Editor
  1. To me personally the most interesting part of the story had nothing to do with the sun but that a scientific facility and associated community had been suddenly and very expeditiously evacuated for an official “reason” (released yesterday) that sounds a bit shaky – simple as that.

    I have to take issue as well with the editorial use of the term “clickbait” by an online entity that might in some regards be considered a purveyor of clickbait on a “daily” basis. I have never minded TDG’s clickbait which is of a genre that often demands a sense of humor and a fanciful style of thinking in order to participate in the fun.

    That you should hold up “Zero Hedge” as an example of a clickbait site on this story is disingenuous and not just a little. Zero Hedge’s article was every bit of skeptical and tongue-in-cheek. I suspect you had other motives for attempting to impugn ZH as a clickbait site, but thanks for bringing ZH to the attention of those among your readers who may have never heard of the site.

    ****************************

    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-09-15/mysterious-observatory-evacuation-stirs-foreign-power-spying-us-missile-base

    “Until the FBI can explain why they swooped in on a Blackhawk helicopter and shut down both the observatory and the local post office, endless conspiracy theories will continue to emerge – unless of course we’re all dead from alien invasion, or enslaved to do their bidding.”

  2. “I suspect you had other motives for attempting to impugn ZH as a clickbait site, but thanks for bringing ZH to the attention of those among your readers who may have never heard of the site.”

    Mmmmhhhh.

  3. Great comments, Greg.
    I see so many hysterical comments on the internet lately, most of which can be quickly and easily debunked as you just did.
    On the story, personally, I think that proximity to the White Sands Test Range had EVERYTHING to do with the evacuations. After all, you don’t show up in a Blackhawk helicopter to sneak up on someone doing illicit activity at a facility. You show up quietly in SUV’s. Someone was in a serious hurry to get people out.
    Also, the official “potential fugitive” story or the “spy equipment on the tower” story wouldn’t explain the needed evacuation of other nearby inhabited structures, like the Post Office.
    Clearly, either a test of something at White Sands suddenly went unexpectedly wrong, or they unexpectedly needed to create a temporarily larger perimeter for something that created a potential danger for a larger area than normal for the White Sands installation.

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