February 4, 2012
The Mystery of the Blue Balls
Blue balls that fell from the sky and pelted a UK residence last week led to wild speculation, but scientists on Friday announced that they had determined the origins of the marble-like objects, and they are disappointingly mundane.
The balls, which according to a January 30 article by Steve Morris of the Guardian, began falling in the backyard of 61-year-old Bournemouth, Dorset resident Steve Hornsby the previous Thursday.According to Morris' account of Hornsby's description of the event, the sky "turned dark, then yellow, then blue balls began dropping out of the sky" at about 4:10pm local time.
Hornsby said he was walking to his garage when what he believed was an ordinary storm hit, but once it past, he discovered the tiny, transparent, blue-colored marble-shaped objects spread throughout his lawn.
"I rushed to stand by the wall out of the way and it was all over very quickly. I had seen the hail come down and it looked like rock salt. But then I spotted something on the lawn and it looked like broken glass," he told Morris. "But then I put my foot on it and it disappeared and I thought it was strange. Then I looked around and there were lots of others. They were definitely not there before the storm."
"They were almost impossible to pick up, they were very jelly-like. I had to get a spoon and flick them into a jam jar. They had an exterior shell with a soft inside. They only landed in our garden in an area of a couple of hundred square meters," Hornsby added. "It is the most peculiar thing I have ever seen — there must be about 20 complete spheres. They don't smell and they don't float“¦ I've never seen anything like it."
The next day, Morris followed up on the phenomenon with a second article, in which he mentioned some possible theories behind the tiny blue objects. Some, he said, believed they may have been dropped from an airplane, while others believed they may have been marine animal eggs. There were some who speculated that they could be "the bodily secretions of angels while others began to prepare for an alien invasion," the Guardian reporter said.
Finally, on Friday, an answer to the puzzle was discovered. In a third article on the story, Morris revealed that Bournemouth University scientists discovered that the blue balls were "almost certainly sodium polyacrylate or waterlock, an absorbent polymer" used in diapers and by gardeners in order to keep soil moist.
"It is still not clear how the substance came to be in the garden but it may be that a heavy hailstorm that seemed to make the balls appear had quickly saturated the sodium polyacrylate crystals, and so caused them to rapidly increase in size," he continued. So at least this portion of the mystery remains unsolved. For now.
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