And now, just as mysteriously, it’s gone.

Utah Monolith
Courtesy of Utah Department of Public Safety
Officials are struggling to pinpoint when and how the object came to be neatly entrenched in the desert.
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Counting sheep, not in the traditional metaphorical sense, led to a bizarre discovery last week in Utah’s Red Rock Country, where a helicopter team keeping track of bighorns noticed an aberration in the landscape below.

A closer look revealed an inexplicably positioned monolith measuring over 10 feet tall and rooted in the dirt in a vicinity most individuals seldom venture.

Where it came from remains a source of bewilderment for all, including officials from the Utah’s Public Safety Department and Division of Wildlife Resources, which were working together to document the sheep.

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“The crew said there was no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there,” the Utah Department of Public Safety said in a release. “The exact location of the installation is not being disclosed since it is in a very remote area and if individuals were to attempt to visit the area, there is a significant possibility they may become stranded and require rescue.”

As is human nature, however, the allure of a shiny red “DO NOT PUSH” button proved too intense to resist. Within days, social media users were cross-referencing helicopter flight tracking data, detailed imagery from Google Earth, and onsite photos provided by the state to narrow down a location just one-third of a mile from a local road.

Among numerous others tracking the object, Diesel Brothers host Dave Sparks used the flow of information to nail down the monolith’s location, a find he shared in a Nov. 24 Instagram post.

As to the object’s origin, speculation ranged from the extraterrestrial to someone’s attempt at art.

Numerous elements of the monolith mirror an object from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Much as the recent discovery engrossed the helicopter crew, whose members instinctively attempted to climb the object, a strikingly similar monolith in one Kubrick scene attracted the curiosity of a group of primates.

“I have to admit, that’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all the years of flying,” Bret Hutchings, the helicopter pilot during the bighorn sheep mission, told Salt Lake City’s KSL-TV.

Hutchings added that the object didn’t appear to have been dropped due to its calculated entrenchment in the ground.

“I’m assuming it is some new wave artist or something … or somebody that just is a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan.”

Despite the peculiarities, Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Nick Street reaffirmed that those who have inspected the object, which appears to have been constructed using stainless steel panels that contained rivets, are quite certain the object is someone’s artwork, though no one could ascertain exactly when the object was planted there.

“Somebody took the time to use some type of concrete-cutting tool or something to really dig down, almost in the exact shape of the object, and embed it really well,” Street said. “It’s odd. There are roads close by, but to haul the materials to cut into the rock, and haul the metal, which is taller than 12 feet in sections — to do all that in that remote spot is definitely interesting.”

After a whirlwind week of public speculation, the state’s Safety Department commented, “This got more attention than we expected. If you head out to see it make sure you do so safely and respectfully.”

Poking fun at the department, one Instagram user responded, “More attention than you thought??? It’s Utah. This is the most interesting thing you’ve ever had, ever.”

A recent update from the Bureau of Land Management endeavored to clarify current restrictions around the object, regardless of human interstellar affiliation.

“Although we can’t comment on active investigations, the Bureau of Land Management would like to remind public land visitors that using, occupying, or developing the public lands or their resources without a required authorization is illegal,” the release said, before adding, “no matter what planet you are from.”