Blue balls theories rage after Dorset storm mystery

A number of theories have been put forward to explain the presence of blue jelly spheres found in a Dorset garden.

Steve Hornsby from Bournemouth reported the 3cm diameter balls came raining down last Thursday during a hailstorm.

Theories include the balls being crystals used in floral displays or ammunition for a toy gun.

But Mr Hornsby remains unconvinced and believes they were formed in the atmosphere. Bournemouth University is to analyse the balls.

He found about 20 balls made of a jelly-like substance which the Met Office has said was "not meteorological".

A number of people who contacted the BBC after the story was published on Friday believed the balls were sodium polyacrylate crystals.

'Mightily convincing'

They can absorb hundreds of times their mass in water and are used in floral displays.

Mel Smith, from Ena's Florists in Bournemouth, said the balls look extremely similar to the type she uses and have the consistence of firm jelly when broken into.

Image caption Florists use water-absorbent balls in their displays

She added: "We buy them dehydrated and then soak them in water for about six hours and they hydrate to balls up to 3cm (about 1in) or so in diameter."

Josie Pegg, an applied science research assistant at Bournemouth University, agreed that the water-absorbing crystal theory was "mightily convincing".

But Mr Hornsby said he does not use the crystals and queried whether the short storm was strong enough to blow them into his garden.

Another idea was that they could be ammunition used in a range of toy guns.

'Deep craters'

Mr Hornsby said there were a number of children living in the area but said his hedge was fairly high, making firing the spheres into his garden tricky.

He also said a number of the balls had made deep craters which he believed could have only been caused if they had fallen from a great height.

Image caption The manufacturer of the toy gun range said the balls were not its products

The manufacturer of the Xploderz toy gun range agreed with Mr Hornsby and said the balls were "definitely not" from its product.

A spokesman for Character Options said: "Our ammunition is completely spherical and at a maximum is 1cm big - these look too big."

Mr Hornsby, a former aircraft engineer, said: "My wife is in the garden all day and didn't see them before so I am convinced it came with the hailstorm.

"We don't use anything like the crystals in our garden and I think it would be difficult for kids to shoot over our hedge.

"I think it is some kind of atmospheric pollution. Pollution forms into spheres and fell like the hailstones."

Mr Hornsby, who is keeping the balls in his fridge, has accepted an offer from Bournemouth University to analyse the substance.

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