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NSF NOIRLab Observatory Offline Following Cyber Attack

The National Science Foundation's NOIRLab has announced that on August 1st it encountered an alarming cyber attack that targeted its computer systems.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed Aug 02 2023Written by Zac Aubert

The National Science Foundation's NOIRLab has announced that on August 1st it encountered an alarming cyber attack that targeted its computer systems.

The cyber attack resulted in the suspension of all astronomical observations at the prestigious Gemini North Observatory in Hawai'i.The quick and efficient response of the NOIRLab cyber security team and observing teams successfully averted any damage to the facility.

As a precautionary measure, NOIRLab has made the decision to isolate the Gemini Observatory's computer systems by shutting them down. Consequently, the Gemini website and proposal tools are also currently offline; the NOIRLab website remains unaffected.

The Gemini North telescope was safely positioned in its zenith-pointing orientation at the time of the attack, and the Gemini South telescope was already in a planned shutdown for engineering work. Both telescopes will remain closed during the investigative and recovery process, led by NOIRLab's IT team in collaboration with NSF's cyber specialists.

NOIRLab officials emphasized that there has been no apparent impact on any other infrastructure under their jurisdiction at this time. The institution is diligently focused on resuming observations safely and securely while simultaneously striving to comprehend the specifics of the attempted cyber breach and learning from the incident to bolster its security measures.

The NOIRLab administration expressed their utmost gratitude for the rapid response and expert handling of the situation by their IT security team and the diligent efforts of the Gemini operations staff. They also acknowledged the unwavering support extended by their partners and the broader astronomical community during this trying period.

The cyber attack on the Gemini Observatory highlights the ongoing threat faced by institutions involved in critical scientific research and underscores the importance of robust cyber security measures. NOIRLab is determined to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident to identify vulnerabilities and reinforce its defenses against future cyber threats.


The National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) is the primary center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy in the United States.

The NOIRLAB operates several world-class facilities, including the International Gemini Observatory, a joint effort involving various countries like the US, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and South Korea. Additionally, NOIRLab manages the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory (in cooperation with the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory).

NOIRLab is overseen by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) through a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and has its headquarters in Tucson, Arizona. The organization facilitates and supports astronomical research on prominent sites such as Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, Maunakea in Hawai‘i, and Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. While doing so, NOIRLab acknowledges and respects the cultural significance and reverence these locations hold for the Tohono O’odham Nation, Native Hawaiian community, and local communities in Chile, respectively.