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What is the Utah monolith?

The Utah monolith went viral over the last few days. Here’s a brief explainer on what it is

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This Nov. 18 photo provided by the Utah Department of Public Safety shows a metal monolith installed in the ground in a remote area of red rock in Utah. The smooth, tall structure was found during a helicopter survey of bighorn sheep in southeastern Utah.

This Nov. 18 photo provided by the Utah Department of Public Safety shows a metal monolith installed in the ground in a remote area of red rock in Utah. The smooth, tall structure was found during a helicopter survey of bighorn sheep in southeastern Utah, officials said Monday. 

Associated Press

A crew from the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Division of Wildlife Resources recently discovered a shining metal monolith in the middle of remote Utah, and it has since gone viral.

So what is the monolith?

The term monolith refers to “a large single upright block of stone, especially one shaped into or serving as a pillar or monument.”

  • The Utah monolith was discovered in a remote area of Utah.
  • The metal object is believed to be between 10 and 12 feet high.
  • Reports suggest the object was planted and not randomly dropped there.
  • It’s been linked to something out of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

How did officials find it?

Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter was helping Utah Division of Wildlife Resource count bighorn sheep in the remote Utah wilderness. They noticed the object planted in the middle of a red rock cove, as I wrote about for the Deseret News.

  • “One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” said pilot Bret Hutchings, according KSL-TV. “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!’”
  • “I’d say it’s probably between 10 and 12 feet-high,” Hutchings said. “We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it.”

It’s actually illegal

Utah DPS in a statement released Monday that the device is actually illegal.

  • “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, no matter what planet you are from.”

What’s been the reaction?

Numerous media outlets have reported on the monolith. The New York Times, CNN,  AV ClubHuffPostScreenCrushThe Guardian and the Daily Mail are among the national and international news organizations that reported on the strange pillar sitting in the middle of the desert.

Social media has run rampant with theories about the pillar as well, positing that it’s sent from aliens or is someone’s trolling art project.

What don’t we know?

The Bureau of Land Management is currently investigating three things about the monolith:

  • How long has it been there?
  • Who might have created it?
  • Should they remove it?

No visitors

Internet sleuths have used Google Earth to try and determine the location. According to The Verge, the supposed location is “remote and highly inhospitable.” It’s not recommended that people travel there to see it. According to the Deseret News, “Officials are not revealing the exact location of the monolith because it is in such a remote area and there is concern that visitors will become stranded and require rescue. Anyone who may know the location of the monolith is being encouraged to refrain from visiting it due to hazardous road conditions.”