Hackers force the closure of two major astronomical observatories

The Gemini International Observatory, a major player in global astronomical research, has temporarily halted astronomical operations after suffering a cyberattack. The perpetrators and their motives are still unknown.

The computer hack, which occurred on the morning of Aug. 1, resulted in the suspension of the Gemini North and South telescopes, as detailed in an Aug. 24 statement from the National Optical Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab). While the northern telescope is located in Hawaii, its southern counterpart, along with a few smaller telescopes, is located in Cerro Tololo, Chile. However, observatories based at Keith Peak in Arizona were not affected by the breach, according to NOIRLab.

as a precautionary measure, website It was taken offline. NOIRLab remains optimistic about its reinvigoration, saying, “We’re encouraged by the progress so far.” Specific details of the cyberattack have yet to be released, citing security concerns from NOIRLab. NOIRLab says the deactivation of was purely precautionary, though the main NOIRLab site remains active.

“Like the entire astronomy community, we are disappointed that some of our telescopes are not currently observing. Fortunately, we have been able to keep some of our telescopes online and collect data through in-person solutions.” We are grateful for the support of the astronomy community during this difficult time and thank everyone for their support. Their patience while our teams continue to work towards restoring normal operations.”

Gemini North in Maunakea, Hawaii.

Gemini North in Maunakea, Hawaii.
picture: NOIRLab

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), NOIRLab plays a pivotal role in ground-based optical and infrared astronomical observations. Although Gemini’s telescopes are not the largest based on mirror size, they are distinguished by their versatility, innovative instruments, and strategic geographic location in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. This gives researchers access to a wide range of astronomical objects and phenomena.

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For the time being, Gemini North is securely positioned in its azimuth-pointing direction. NOIRLab credits the quick actions of its security team with preventing any damage to the observatory. As for who is responsible for the breaches or their motives, it is still unknown or undisclosed. NOIRLab has been silent about the incident, claiming it is “limited” in what it can share about “cybersecurity controls and investigation findings.”

The nature of the breaches is Unknown, but under the name of pointing toUS National Intelligence and Counterintelligence Center (NCSC). I have already warned the public on such threats – and even the potential for espionage – in the space sector, emphasizing the critical importance of space assets to national security and economic power.

Astronomical observatories have faced cyberattacks before, as also points out. Last year, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) was established in Chile Targeted. NASA has also been exposed to similar attacksThis prompted its leadership to stress the urgent need to enhance cyber security.

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