2020 just keeps getting weirder.

The latest incident began when a group of officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety's Aero Bureau spotted something strange. The group was flying over rural Utah and counting bighorn sheep when they noticed a gleaming, alien-looking entity in the middle of nowhere.

"One of the biologists...spotted it, and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it," said pilot Bret Hutchings. "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 "thing" was a metallic, prism-shaped monolith, standing about 12 feet high and reflecting the desert sun.

Aliens or Art?

Most people have concluded that the monolith was simply the work of an ambitious Earth-based artist. Some are even guessing at who that artist might be. Some have suggested it is the creation of John McCracken, a minimalist artist who died in 2011, or the work of a McCracken imitator.

Either way, no one is quite sure how the object arrived. "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," said Lt. Nick Street, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson.

"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," Street said.

The monolith immediately sparked public interest, reminding many people of a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey wherein a black monolith mysteriously appears. Of course, in the film, the monolith is the work of an unnamed alien race.

Monolith 2001 A Space Odyssey MonolithThe monolith in 2001: a space odyssey

When the story broke, many people immediately began to speculate about it, presuming the installation was the work of extraterrestrials. CBS News described it as "alien-like," and online conspiracy theorists have proposed many possible mysterious origins.

The Utah Department of Public Safety fueled the fire by refusing to disclose the object's exact location; of course, obsessive Internet users quickly found it.

The Monolith Mysteriously Disappears

To add even more mystery and intrigue, as of Friday, November 27th, the monolith has reportedly disappeared. Some intrepid explorers managed to discover its location, which they said was south of the Moab desert, but when some of them arrived to photograph it on Friday, it was gone.

One of the explorers, Riccardo Marino, posted about the event on Instagram. "All that was left in its place was a message written in the dirt that said 'bye b*tch' with a fresh pee stain right next to it. Someone had just stolen the statue, and we were the first to arrive at the scene."

Marino also said that on his way to the monolith, he passed a pickup truck carrying a large object that he now believes was the structure itself.

If this is all the work of aliens, they're surprisingly well-versed in modern American lingo. On the other hand, the heist could also have been the work of an invasive human who has just brought a curse upon our planet by stealing the monolith. Or it all could've been one massive joke, the perfect way to distract us from our 2020 misery.

The Utah Department of Public Safety had a more exuberant reaction. "IT'S GONE!" they wrote on Instagram. "Almost as quickly as it appeared it has now disappeared," adding that they can only speculate that aliens (symbolized by an alien emoji) were responsible.

The three-sided structure was removed "by an unknown party," according to an official statement from the Bureau of Federal Land Management.

Its disappearance is being investigated by the local sheriff's office, since the monolith is considered private property. If it was removed by someone other than the artist who installed it, this could be a case of a very strange art heist.

This week, the monolith has become the subject of very public fascination. "We recognize the incredible interest the 'monolith' has generated world-wide. Many people have been enjoying the mystery and view it as a welcome distraction from the 2020 news cycle," Monticello Field Manager Amber Denton Johnson said in a statement.

"Even so, it was installed without authorization on public lands, and the site is in a remote area without services for the large number of people who now want to see it. Whenever you visit public lands please follow Leave No Trace principles and Federal and local laws and guidance."

Even aliens aren't free from the feds, it seems.

2020: Year of Aliens

2020 has been a year of calamitous pandemics, protests, and politics; but in between it all, news flashes about aliens keep popping up like little winks from the beyond—perhaps reminding us that we're not alone.

In April, the Pentagon released two videos of unidentified objects, filmed in 2004 and 2015, respectively. In June, scientists released a study that said there may be more than 38 alien civilizations in the Milky Way. In July, the Pentagon revealed that they were tracking unidentified aircrafts as part of their U.F.O. unit. In September, astronomers discovered evidence of possible life on Venus.

UFO sightings have spiked in 2020, with everyone from Demi Lovato to Staten Island locals reporting alien sightings this year. Odd news stories keep popping up, like the time a former astronaut told Forbes aliens are definitely real and they could be here on Earth.

"It's possible they're here right now and we simply can't see them," said astronaut Helen Patricia Sharman. "Aliens exist, there's no two ways about it."

Mysteriously, Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, was just elected to the U.S. Senate in Arizona. Perhaps last year's Area 51 invaders were more successful than we thought.

The question is: Would it even matter if aliens installed this monolith?

"At this point, Aliens taking control of the world doesn't seem that bad," wrote one Twitter user. Hopefully, if aliens are responsible, they're not too mad that a pickup-driving, foulmouthed American stole their monolith — though their interactions do sound like excellent fodder for a film.

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