You think fake blood is gross? Nuh uh, Mother Nature has you beat.
Ever walk outside to find a sloppy mess of gelatinous goo on tree branches or grass? It’s usually translucent or grayish-white, and always a pile of goop. Some know it as Star Jelly, while others call it Astromyxin. But even stranger tales call it the residue of meteor showers.
Ever since the 13th century, people have been finding examples of Star Jelly across the globe. John of Gaddesden, for example, mentions “stella terrae,” which translates in Latin to “star of the earth” or “earth-star,” in medical writings, and even describes it as “a certain mucilaginous substance lying upon the earth.” He goes on to suggest that Star Jelly could be used to treat abscesses. (Pro tip: It doesn’t.)
In the 14th century, there’s a medical Latin textbook containing an entry for “uligo,” which is described as “a certain fatty substance emitted from the earth, that is commonly called ‘a star which has fallen.’”
Later, in 1440, an English-Latin dictionary includes a definition for “sterre slyme.” The Latin equivalent provided within the text is “assub,” which in medieval Latin is a term for a “falling” or “shooting star.”
Recently, an article in the magazine Fate argued that Star Jelly came from extraterrestrial origins. The article called the goo “cellular organic matter” that exists as “prestellar molecular clouds” which float through space.
Is that true? Eh, I wouldn’t put money on it. But it doesn’t change the fact that Star Jelly is strange as hell and super gross to look at.
So what is it?
The National Geographic Society hired scientists to research Star Jelly, and they failed to find any DNA within the material. (So there goes Fate’s extraterrestrial origin.)
The Massachusetts Department of Environment Quality Engineering performed tests on “star fall” that dropped on North Reading. The results found that the material was “non-toxic,” though it’s still recommended not to eat Star Jelly.
In the 18th century, Thomas Pennant came up with a theory that the goo is “something vomited up by birds or animals.”
Along that same thought process, a separate theory proposed that Star Jelly is frog spawn consumed and then vomited up by amphibian-eating creatures. However, no frog spawn has ever grown to the size of some reported cases of Star Jelly. (And some of the aforementioned studies have proven that the substance contains no DNA.)
Lastly, some believe that slime molds are the reason for Star Jelly, because these mold types appear gelatinous at first and quickly turn to a dust-like form. The colors also range from white to pink, yellow to orange, and even in some cases brown.
One of the strangest examples of Star Jelly happened in 1950, when four Philadelphia policemen found “a domed disk of quivering jelly, 6 feet in diameter, one foot thick at the center and an inch or two near the edge.” When they tried to pick the thing up, it turned into an “odorless, sticky scum.”
And here’s the best part: this incident actually was the inspiration for the film The Blob. Ponder that next time you see some of this strange goop hanging out.