Online sleuths uncover identity of mysterious object on Australian beach

Online sleuths uncover identity of mysterious object on Australian beach

The object appeared on a beach at Green Head near Perth, Western Australia, on 16 July

Australia Space Agency

An internet sleuth says they have solved the mystery of a large, unidentified object that had police scratching their heads after it washed up on a beach in Australia recently.

The six-foot metal cylinder with wires hanging out of the top, which looks like it was part of a spacecraft, appeared on a beach at Green Head near Perth, Western Australia, on Sunday 16 July.

Some people suggested that it could be from the missing Flight MH370 aeroplane. But police dismissed those theories, confirming the object was not from a commercial aircraft.

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A Reddit sleuth, however, said the object looks strangely similar to part of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PLSV) rocket.

The theory was backed up by Dr Alice Gorman, a specialist in space archaeology at Australia’s Flinders University. She told that the object looks like a fuel cylinder that came from that same rocket.

“When rockets are launched, the fuel tanks drop off and the fuel is expended and generally falls over the ocean, as this one did,” she said.

“It looks like it has been on the sea floor for some time, becoming a habitat for marine animals like barnacles. A storm probably dislodged it, allowing it to be swept to shore.”

Gorman said the object “isn’t going to explode” but added that rocket fuels are toxic. “In general it’s better for people to avoid touching them. This one was solid fuel which is generally safe unless it’s actually burning.”

“Statistically speaking, it’s likely to be from earlier in the last decade, as 33 PLSVs were launched in the 2010s,” she said.

“Space junk re-enters Earth’s atmosphere every day, but generally is completely burnt up and no one sees it … While fuel tanks are the most common part to survive because they are made of very heat-resistant materials, you don’t see something this big and intact every day.”

Australian authorities had warned beach-goers to stay away from the “hazardous” object. By 17 July, police had declared the object safe but said people should still stay away.

“An analysis of the object by the Department of Fire and Emergency Service and Chemistry Centre of Western Australia today has determined the object is safe and there is no current risk to the community,” Western Australia police said.

“This includes those who have come into contact with the object prior to it being reported to police on Sunday.”

Garth Griffiths, who lives near the beach where it was found, told ABC that a local couple had discovered the object floating in the water and pulled it out of the ocean using their car.

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