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Hackers hacked into the world’s largest telescopes: Is something happening in space and why would anyone intentionally try to stop astronomical research?

Hackers hacked into the world's largest telescopes: Is something happening in space and why would anyone intentionally try to stop astronomical research? 1

Work on the world’s largest telescopes is paralyzed as hackers have been stubbornly attacking the control system of astronomers’ mainframe for many days now. They do not put forward any demands, none of the groups takes responsibility. It seems that scientists have obtained some valuable data, and someone wants to interfere with further research.

It all started in early August. Unknown people attacked the control system of the Gemini North telescope in Chile. The telescope could have been destroyed but the operators quickly disconnected the device from the outside world.

The hacker attack could have taken place by mistake: the attackers were aiming at a bank or a military facility, and did not even realize that they had hit the telescope. The incident was reported sparingly and as if through gritted teeth.

But anonymous attacks have intensified and currently all large telescopes concentrated in Hawaii and Chile are disconnected from framework. Very large telescopes are not built anywhere, but in places with an ideal astroclimate: many clear nights, few winds, and the atmosphere is calm. There are only a handful of places on Earth where it makes sense to build a colossal structure worth billions of dollars, and this is primarily Hawaii and Chile.

So, the Earth is “blind”: no one looks into space. The tragedy is that many observations can be made either now or never or very soon. Heavenly phenomena will not wait for us and will not repeat their shows for our sake. Hundreds of research projects have been thwarted.

“We have a grim determination to keep going no matter what,” says American astrophysicist Gautam Narayan, whose supernova observation program has been thwarted.

A very strange situation

The halo of silence that shrouds this story is alarming.

Firstly, it turned out that back in November 2022, hackers attacked a radio telescope in Chile, but this was a one-time attack. For some reason, the public was not told about it then.

Secondly, no one was particularly informed about the current incident until the time when it became pointless to hide. The first attack happened on August 1st. By August 9th, all large and most medium-sized telescopes were paralyzed, and only then they decided to open up – but only to the astronomers themselves.

Thirdly, NOIRLab, a subsidiary of the National Science Foundation, does not provide any details, not only to the press, not even to its own employees. Who these hackers are? What kind of software do they use? Is it ransomware? Is it clear what these people want? Journalists do not receive answers, the company’s staff is in the dark, only the management knows, but is silent.

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The incident is classified for some reason.

An attack on the Sun

In 2018, FBI helicopters landed near the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico. A capture group immediately cordoned off the territory of the observatory and expelled the staff. The security forces did something at the observatory for several weeks and didn’t let anyone in, then took out of the observatory all the hard drives with data that were completely gone. One blogger with a camera climbed over the fence but he was stopped by people with machine guns.

The website of the observatory with up-to-date information about the Sun were of course, “frozen”. But, what is especially mysterious, most of the sites of other solar observatories were also on pause. In the fall of 2018, there was nowhere to get up-to-date data on the daylight.

Later, the authorities issued a bizarre statement: a janitor worked at the observatory, who at night looked at bad sites from the office computer.

A version was put forward that astronomers dug up something about the Sun. Then the topic was actively exaggerated: the Sun actually went out, the remnants of its light reach us. There was a minimum of solar activity, very deep. The sun reduced activity to zero and did not want to enter a new cycle. Then, in the fall of 2018, another space probe flew to the day star. A hypothesis arose: the probe and astronomers discovered something, humanity is threatened with death from the cold, the data was classified in order to avoid panic.

Now, when the Sun is active, so much so that the old-timers do not remember, it’s even ridiculous to remember this.

And yet: astronomical data for some reason began to interest the military and hackers. And anyone can be behind the hackers.

Weird theories

In fact, they don’t. Scientists are not ready for this turn of affairs and think about how they will explain the failure of scientific programs to their investors. After all, astronomers have been working on grants for a long time. They gave money and they require reporting back. The actions of hackers seem to be a good reason, but scientists are still worried about whether the next grant will be taken away.

In general, we will have to invent versions ourselves.

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The most simple and natural scenario is personal revenge. There are still intrigues and scandals. Perhaps an astronomer, who never received observation time, studied the hacker habits and began to break the system. This could explain the bashful silence.

On another note, astronomers could have noticed or, rather, can notice something that should not be there. This would explain both the incident at the solar observatory and the fact that they decided to dismantle the oldest and most honored radio telescope in Arecibo. They could have left it as a museum, but in 2020 it was destroyed. Arecibo has been involved, among other things, in programs to search for aliens;

The latest version looks crazy but enticing. Recent hearings in the US Congress, revealed the fact that inexplicable flying objects do appear near the Earth. If you imagine that governments “know everything” but do not yet want to reveal it, it costs nothing to hire hackers to blind astronomers.

Another theory of the same version: a certain group of activists is afraid that people will come into contact with aliens and they will destroy us. To prevent this from happening, the group brings down all channels of communication with outer space.

The toughest theory is based on the fact that then, in 2018, a spacecraft flew to the Sun. But even now, for the first time, people have touched the mysterious South Pole of the Moon.

According to conspiracy theories, it is there that the base of those UFOs that surprise humans is located. Perhaps the command has been given to stop for the time being all sorts of space exploration not controlled by governments, and the data from the Indian probe, if it finds something, to be classified.

Against this conjecture, which of course sounds like complete nonsense, is that very large telescopes do not observe the Moon. Then it would be worth taking binoculars and spyglasses from the entire population of the Earth.

In general, the matter is dark, the mystery is huge, and we will follow the development of events.

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