A remote beach in a part of Western Australia known for its rock lobsters and wildflowers has become home to a hulking metallic mystery object and the police officers guarding it.
The Western Australia Police Force asked people on Monday not to draw conclusions about the origins of the cylindrical object while it was being investigated. But in news reports and on social media, people speculated that it could be from a military or commercial airplane, or even a spacecraft.
A civilian reported the object to the police on Sunday after it was found near Green Head, a coastal town of fewer than 300 people about 155 miles north of Perth that is known for its fishing and sea lions.
The police said in a statement on Monday night 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 investigators.
Still, the police asked the public to stay away. The mystery object would be moved only after it was formally identified, the 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 the ABC that 20 to 30 people were at the site of the object at any time.
“It was a great social evening,” Mr. Griffiths said. “It was a lovely, still night. The kids were digging sand castles around it.”
He said that a local couple had discovered the object floating in the water and pulled it out of the ocean using their four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The police said in an earlier statement on Monday that officers were guarding the object to preserve potential evidence and to 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 disappeared in 2014 after flying south over the Indian Ocean. However, the police said that at this “early stage” in their investigation, it did not appear that the debris was from a commercial aircraft.
The Australian Space Agency said in a statement on Twitter on Monday that the object “could be from a foreign space launch vehicle.” The agency said it was communicating with space agencies in other countries to get 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 pointy black piece of space debris on his 5,000-acre property in a remote corner of southeastern Australia. Earlier this year, investigators examined a giant metal ball that was found on a beach in Hamamatsu, Japan. It turned out to be a buoy.