What the **** is it?
That’s the question people around the world are asking after a mysterious iron ball nearly 5 feet wide washed ashore on a beach in Japan.
The discovery of the strange object in the sand on Enshuhama Beach in the coastal city of Hamamatsu has baffled local officials and led to wild speculation on social media, which was already rife with theories following the U.S. military’s downing of four suspicious aerial objects — including a suspected Chinese spy balloon — in a little over a week.
The hollow, sand-colored orb was first spotted by a local resident, who had gone to the beach for a run.
“It’s been there for a month,” the man told Japanese broadcaster NHK. “I tried to push it, but it wouldn’t budge.”
Local police closed the beach and sent in a bomb squad, which, after examining the sphere, deemed it safe.
But officials have yet to establish what, exactly, it is.
“We have not been able to determine what kind of debris it is, but it has been confirmed that it is safe,” said Masaki Matsukawa, head of the Shizuoka Prefectural Hamamatsu Civil Engineering Office, “so we will dispose of it in the same way as normal floating debris.”
The ball was removed from the beach earlier this week, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation about it online.
Some said it looked like part of a ship’s mooring that broke free.
Others joked it could be a “Godzilla” egg or “Dragon Ball,” referring to the fictional movie monster and popular manga series, respectively.
A few were convinced it originated from space.
Even Neil deGrasse Tyson, the author and world-renowned astrophysicist, was apparently stumped.
"I have no idea," Tyson when asked on CNN what he thought it was. "Why does everyone have to know everything at all times?" he added.
Oceanographers, though, were quick to identify it.
Professor Mark Inall, an oceanographer at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, told the BBC that he knew “instantly” that the object was a research buoy. "It's very recognizable," Inall said. "We use [them] to keep instruments floating in the ocean."
“It’s just a normal buoy,” Uwe Send, an oceanographer with the University of San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told the New York Times.
So what was all the fuss was about?
“Maybe everybody is paranoid because of balloons,” Send said.