Bizarre Object Washes Ashore in Australia, Sparking Investigation

On Sunday, a canister-like object washed ashore in Green Head, Western Australia, triggering a mystery for both state and federal officials. Its origin has not yet been confirmed, but early speculation suggests it came from a rocket.

As reported in The Guardian, the large cylindrical object appeared on a beach near Jurien Bay, roughly 137 miles (220 kilometers) north of Perth, with local residents alerting authorities on Sunday. A local couple, after spotting it near the water’s edge, used their four-wheel-drive vehicle to pull the metal cylinder onto the shore, according to Australia’s public broadcaster.

The copper-colored object, measuring over 8 feet (2.5 meters) across, looks badly damaged and it exhibits signs of having been in the water for a prolonged period; barnacles and other marine life can be seen clinging to the base. This thing has probably been in the water for months, possibly even years.

Experts with the state’s fire department came in to perform a chemical analysis of the object, determining that it’s safe and poses no risk to the community, The Guardian reports. That said, the Australian Space Agency is asking the community to “avoid handling or attempting to move the object,” as the origin of the object remains unknown. Police are currently guarding the object to maintain the integrity of the investigation, which is being run by both federal and state agencies, the BBC reports.

Early speculation suggested that the object came from some kind of aircraft, possibly even the Boeing 777 that went missing nine years ago during flight MH370, but that was eventually ruled out. The going theory suggests it’s debris from a yet-to-be-identified rocket. “The object could be from a foreign space launch vehicle and we are liaising with global counterparts who may be able to provide more information,” the Australian Space Agency explained in a tweet.

Speaking to The Guardian, space archaeology expert Alice Gorman said the object is likely a fuel cylinder that originated from the third stage of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), a medium-lift rocket that routinely blasts off from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell confirmed via email that the object indeed appears to be “a rocket stage of some sort.” However, he is not yet prepared to definitively identify it.

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