Scientists are trying to unravel the mystery of the deep-sea golden orb.

Researchers with NOAA’s Ocean Exploration discovered the orb-like organism while operating a remote-controlled submarine off the coast of Alaska at a depth of roughly two miles on Aug. 30.

“It’s like the beginning of a horror movie,” one crew member said when they first encountered the specimen. “Pretty sure this is how the first episode of the X-Files started,” said another.

golden orb
A screenshot of the orb-like specimen found on the ocean floor on Aug. 30, 2023. (NOAA)

So what is it?

Initial thoughts range from a dead sponge attachment to coral, to an egg casing.

“This golden orb … struck an imaginative chord for many watching,” NOAA tweeted.

Scientists are looking forward to examining the specimen in a laboratory once NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer returns to shore.

It’s unknown if the orb is associated with a known species or perhaps an entirely new one.

Golden Orb
This unidentified specimen, photographed in the wet lab of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, was seen on August 30, 2023, during Dive 07 of the Seascape Alaska 5: Gulf of Alaska Remotely Operated Vehicle Exploration and Mapping expedition. (NOAA)

“New species have the potential to reveal new sources for medical therapies and vaccines, food, energy, and other societal benefits and knowledge,” said NOAA Ocean Exploration’s Sam Candio. “Collectively, the data and information gathered during this expedition will help us close gaps in our understanding of this part of the planet, so we can better manage and protect it.”