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The monolith in Utah (Credit: Utah DPS)

What is this weird 2001-like metal monolith spotted in the Utah desert?

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Nov 25, 2020, 5:05 PM EST (Updated)

Utah is a state of many scenic wonders, dinosaur fossils, diverse wildlife, and natural beauty — but rarely has anything as unusual ever been discovered amid its treasures as this gleaming monolith structure embedded in solid rock by itself in the desert.

The immediate associations are with the extraterrestrial artifact seen in director Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey found buried deep below the surface of the Moon, but the actual identity of the object might be much more Earth-bound... or is it? 

First spotted by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter assisting a team of Utah Division of Wildlife Resource officers tallying bighorn sheep on Wednesday, passengers spied something weird standing alone in a red rock box canyon in a remote wilderness area. 

Credit: Utah DPS

“One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings told local news station KSLTV. “He was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around! And I was like, ‘what.’ And he’s like, ‘There’s this thing back there – we’ve got to go look at it!'”

The spooky monolith measures in at approximately 10-12 feet high and the biologists aboard the chopper are not revealing the exact location to keep the curious general public away in the fragile environment it's silently standing guard over.

Upon landing, the crew exited their aircraft and investigated further, capturing the encounter with video and snapshots of the shiny geometric pillar. Precisely what this monolith is and why it was placed in this desolate desert region with no inscriptions or signs to denote its meaning, one can only guess, although Hutchings has his own theories about its ultimate identification.

Credit: Utah DPS

“We were, like, thinking is this something NASA stuck up there or something," Hutchings said. "Are they bouncing satellites off it or something? We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it. I'm assuming it's some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan. That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying.”

But leave it to eager internet detectives to help solve most of the mystery surrounding the strange Utah monolith, which now appears to have a Hollywood connection as a leftover prop. After tracing the official Moab flight paths of the Utah Public Safety helicopters that discovered the triangular steel structure on FlightAware, Redditors concluded that the choppers touched down close to Canyonlands National Park as it meets the Colorado River.

Credit: HBO

They then narrowed their search and found the monolith on Google Earth at 38.343080°, -109.666190° which is south of Dead Horse Point State Park near Needles Point. This region has been popular with location scouts for numerous TV and film production, most recently for Disney’s John Carter and HBO’s sci-fi thriller, Westworld

Google Earth historical data dates the first appearance of the structure between August of 2015 and October of 2016, which lines up with Westworld’s Season 1 shooting schedule. Looks like it wasn't planted by extraterrestrials after all!

Article updated Nov. 25 with additional context and background.

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