A remote beach in a part of Western Australia known for its lobsters and wildflowers has become home to a mysterious hulking metallic object and the police officers guarding it.
Western Australia Police asked people on Monday not to jump to conclusions about the origins of the cylindrical object while it was investigated. But in news reports and on social media, people speculated that it could be from a military or commercial aircraft, or even a spacecraft.
A civilian reported the object to police on Sunday after it was found near Green Head, a coastal town of fewer than 300 people about 155 miles north of Perth, known for its fishing and sea lions.
Police said in a statement late Monday that the object was safe and did not pose a risk to the public, according to an analysis by state fire and emergency services officials and chemical and forensic science researchers.
Still, police asked the public to stay away. The mystery object would be moved only after it was formally identified, police said.
Before the police arrived to guard the cylinder on Monday, locals had gathered around the mystery object on Sunday night. the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Garth Griffiths, who lives near the beach, told ABC that 20 to 30 people were at the site of the object at any one time.
“It was a great social evening,” Mr. Griffiths said. “It was a beautiful, quiet night. The children were digging sandcastles around it.”
He said a local couple had discovered the object floating in the water and pulled it out of the ocean using their four-wheel drive vehicle.
Police said in an earlier statement on Monday that officers were guarding the object to preserve potential evidence and make it easier for experts to examine the cylinder while state and federal agencies investigated it.
There was speculation online that the object was connected to MH370, the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing in 2014 after flying south over the Indian Ocean. However, police said that at this “early stage” of their investigation, the debris did not appear to be from a commercial aircraft.
The Australian Space Agency said in a sentence on Twitter Monday that the object “could be from a foreign space launch vehicle.” The agency said it was reaching out to space agencies in other countries for more information.
“As the origin of the object is unknown, the community should avoid handling or attempting to move the object,” the agency said.
Last year, a sheep farmer found a spiky black piece of space debris on his 5,000-acre property in a remote corner of southeast Australia. Earlier this year, researchers examined a giant metal ball found on a beach in Hamamatsu, Japan. It turned out to be a buoy.