Star jelly: a mysterious substance that has confounded the best minds for centuries

Have you ever stumbled upon a weird, gelatinous blob on your lawn and thought, "Is this alien goo?" Well, maybe not, but plenty of other people have. Star jelly is a peculiar substance that has baffled and fascinated people for centuries. Often found after meteor showers, star jelly is an eerie, translucent goo that seems to appear out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly — the kind of stuff that fuels folklore and fires up the imagination of conspiracy theorists worldwide.

Reports of the stuff date back to the 14th century, with various cultures offering their own explanations for its origins. From the poetic, if not slightly off-putting, "moon's feces" in Mexico to the whimsical Welsh "rot from the stars," this cosmic gunk has a history as colorful as its many names.

From Wikipedia:

There have been reports of 'star-jelly' for centuries. John of Gaddesden (1280–1361) mentions stella terrae (Latin for 'star of the earth' or 'earth-star') in his medical writings, describing it as "a certain mucilaginous substance lying upon the earth" and suggesting that it might be used to treat abscesses. A fourteenth-century Latin medical glossary has an entry for uligo, described as "a certain fatty substance emitted from the earth, that is commonly called 'a star which has fallen.'" Similarly, an English-Latin dictionary from around 1440 has an entry for "sterre slyme" with the Latin equivalent given as assub (a rendering of Arabic ash-shuhub, also used in medieval Latin as a term for a "falling" or "shooting" star). 

What does modern science have to say about our gelatinous friend? Unsurprisingly, it's not extraterrestrial leftovers (it would burn up when it entered Earth's atmosphere) but could be as mundane as frog spawn ejected by predators or the less glamorous byproducts of slime molds and algae.

In his 2005 article for The Guardian title "The blobs," Mark Pilkington wrote about a 1995 incident in when "a translucent jelly-like substance — 'enough to fill a kettle' according to the finder — was discovered in a garden in Horley, Oxfordshire; while in 1983, Reading, Massachusetts was pelted with a greyish-white jelly which, when analysed, proved not to be waste from an aircraft, as was first assumed."

The plot thickens with each new finding, as some samples defy explanation, lacking any DNA at all. A 2009 article from The Times of London by Melanie Reid, titled "Nature 1, Science 0 as finest minds fail to explain star jelly," reports that National Geographic scientists studied star jelly samples collected in the United States and weren't able to detect genetic material. "This rather invalidates the regurgitation theories, as anything from an animal's stomach, be it a heron or a badger, would contain trace elements of DNA," wrote Reid.

From The Times: "In some cases, people have reported finding large piles – enough to fill a wheelbarrow – which would rule out single animals. Euan McIlwraith, the presenter of Out of Doors, said: 'It's a case of Nature 1, Science 0 at the moment, which I really like.'"

I like it, too.

See also: Scientists discover 4.8 quintillion pound "mystery blob" below the moon's surface