In a scene straight out of a Stanley Kubrick sci-fi, an enormous monolith has been discovered in the Utah desert.
Helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings spotted the smooth metal structure as he was flying overhead helping wildlife resource officers count bighorn sheep last week.
The huge slab was found standing completely alone in the barren landscape, firmly planted into the earth. It’s about three metres tall, or between 10 and 12 feet high.
“That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,” Mr Hutchings told local news channel KSLTV.
“One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it.
“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!'”
Mr Hutchings said the object looked manmade.
Monoliths are an iconic motif in the 1968 classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which they are machines created by an alien species.
Their discovery – and the reactions of the characters who find them – drives the plot of the eerie movie, which was an adaptation of the novel by Arthur C. Clarke.
Mr Hutchings suspects the Utah monolith probably has a far more mundane explanation behind 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,” he said.
However no artist or gallery has come forward to claim the piece as one of their own.
Its discovery sparked feverish debate on Reddit, with users theorising on its construction, how it got to the desert and why.
Eagle-eyed users have spotted lines by the monolith’s base. suggesting a rock saw was used to insert it into the ground. It also appears to feature screws meaning it’s not one huge chunk of solid metal.
Utah’s Department of Public Safety has refused to reveal the location of the slab in order to discourage visitors.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
They added that it’s illegal to install a structure on federally managed public land without authorisation “no matter what planet you’re from”.