According to records accessed by James Holden on Ring Station, the galaxy-spanning alien civilization responsible for the creation of the protomolecule, Rings and the Slow Zone was destroyed by an unknown agency. This mysterious force demonstrated the ability to neutralize the civilization's hive-mind or collective consciousness, and as its influence spread throughout the galaxy the civilization was forced to resort to extreme measures, destroying entire solar systems in a bid to stem the "infection".
On Ilus, Dr. Elvi Okoye and the Investigator were the first to encounter an artifact left behind by the force that destroyed the alien civilization. The object, appearing as a dark, floating sphere bordered with bright light, was undetectable and invisible to the Investigator and other alien machines, but would render them inert if any passed within its radius. Elvi passed through the object herself while attempting to use it to shut down Ilus' defenses, but she survived the experience without ill effects.
While little is known about the alien civilization that created the protomolecule, even less is known about the entity or entities responsible for its destruction. As of yet, only one object has been encountered that appears to have been created by the unknown agency: the mysterious sphere on Ilus, which could destroy networks like the Ilus defense system on contact.
The object's effects on a human observer are highly unusual; while inside the object, Elvi described herself as being able to perceive increasingly small objects and phenomena, eventually becoming aware of the individual molecules and atoms that composed her body.