What could it be?
A large, barnacle-encrusted and golden cylindrical object washed up on a beach in Western Australia, puzzling authorities who are still trying to piece together what it is. Early signs, though, suggest that it's some kind of space debris.
Whatever it may be, the cylinder, which is domed on one end and broken off on the other, was discovered on a beach at Green Head, located some 150 miles north of Perth, by local residents on Sunday afternoon.
One resident who stumbled upon the scene described it as being roughly eight feet wide and ten feet tall, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports — so a pretty sizable hunk of metallic junk.
Until its exact origins can be determined, the Western Australia Police Force, who were guarding the site, has warned beachgoers to keep away, saying the mystery debris was "being treated as hazardous," though further analysis determined that it didn't pose a risk to the community.
We are currently making enquiries related to this object located on a beach near Jurien Bay in Western Australia.
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.
[More in comments] pic.twitter.com/41cRuhwzZk
— Australian Space Agency (@AusSpaceAgency) July 17, 2023
The Australian Space Agency is demurring on what the object might be, saying in a tweet only that it "could be from a foreign space launch vehicle." It adds that it's "currently making enquiries" on the object.
But internet sleuths may already have the authorities beat. If they're to be believed, it seems that this object may be the jettisoned third stage of one of India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PLSV), a multistage rocket.
Stephen Clark, a space reporter for Ars Technica, explained that the "PLSV's third stage never reaches orbital velocity," and typically falls downrange of its launch site and into the Indian Ocean. If correctly identified, this means that the debris did not originate from India's Chandryaan 3 lunar mission that launched on Friday, which uses a different rocket.
Corroborating this theory, aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told the BBC that the object could be a fuel tank from a rocket that fell into the ocean within the past year. Thomas also firmly dispelled speculation that the object could have belonged to the MH370 airliner — or any aircraft for that matter — which tragically went missing somewhere off the west coast of Australia in 2014.
"No chance," he said.
More on space debris: Scientists Experimenting With Actual Tractor Beam to Clean Up Space Junk
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