SPACE TRASH

Mysterious space object found by shepherds in Murcia field

Civil Guard investigators say 20-kilo artifact could have fallen from rocket or satellite

A Civil Guard officer in a hazmat suit analyzes the strange object in Murcia.
A Civil Guard officer in a hazmat suit analyzes the strange object in Murcia.Guardia Civil

Residents of the normally tranquil Murcia countryside had their peace disturbed on Tuesday when a strange object showed up out of nowhere.

Shepherd brothers Francisco and Juan Espín del Amo, who were tending their flocks in the area as usual, stared in amazement at the grayish, oval-shaped thing that looked like nothing they had ever seen before.

The object weighed around 20 kilograms and measured about a meter in diameter. It was wrapped in a black material that appeared to provide isolation.

The Civil Guard immediately activated its protocol for nuclear, radiological, bacteriological and chemical threats

“It must have dropped from the sky,” they concluded, according to local media reports.

The object could also have been a military device – given that the army was conducting training exercises in an area known as Llanos del Cagitan, within the municipal limits of Mula (Murcia) – or an anti-hail rocket launched by an airplane.

The Civil Guard immediately activated its protocol for nuclear, radiological, bacteriological and chemical threats, and sent officers in hazmat suits to inspect the artifact.

It was later confirmed to be an aerospace industry device, possibly an auxiliary fuel tank for a rocket or a satellite.

This is not the first time that such objects have landed on Earth, said Civil Guard explosives experts. “A couple of years ago, similar items were found in Australia and Brazil,” said one source.

By the time it was identified, Francisco and Juan’s brother-in-law, a community manager whom the brothers contacted as soon as they found the strange object, had already done his own online research and reached his own conclusion.

“The sphere looks very much like a composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV), possibly from a space station,” he said. “These objects are made from such resilient materials that they can survive Earth re-entry, and even catastrophic explosions, nearly intact.”

On Wednesday morning, Murcia authorities were continuing to assess potential environmental risks in the area. A radioactive facilities inspector has been analyzing the site with an ionization chamber, and tests have turned up negative for higher-than-normal alpha, beta and gamma emissions.

The object is now at Civil Guard facilities, waiting for somebody to claim it.

English version by Susana Urra.