Image credit: KGUN-9/Gerardine Vargas
A mysterious pile of small purple spheres was discovered in the desert in Vale, Arizona, just southeast of Tucson.
KGUN-9, Tucson’s ABC affiliate, reports that Geradine Vargas and her husband stumbled upon the pile on Sunday, January 27 while walking in the area. She photographed this random collection of tiny spheres in the middle of nowhere and sent the photos to KGUN-9.
A reporter visited the site, inspected the spheres, and describes them as “gooey marbles that ooze out a water substance when squished.” She continued, “They roll, they shine, and they’re out of this world.”
The station reportedly received “tons of calls” after airing their story about the spheres from viewers suggesting the tiny balls are simply water absorbing jelly balls that are widely available, and used for various purposes. These jelly balls (referred to by a variety of names including deco balls, water pearls, and polymer pearls, just to name a few) are made of super-absorbent polymers, and are routinely used by floral shops to keep plants hydrated. They are also used in diapers to prevent leaks, and even sold as children’s toys (like Orbeez).
A similar pile of blue spheres was discovered in January 2012 in England. In that case, researchers initially speculated that the small blue balls could be marine invertebrate eggs. But the spheres were later identified as sodium polyacrylate, which, as the Daily Mail explained, “is used in gardening or agriculture to improve soil, as well as being used in nappies (diapers).” According to LiveScience, sodium polyacrylate can absorb hundreds of times its weight in water.
If the purple spheres in Arizona are simply super-absorbent jelly balls, why are there so many of them? Retailers sell these products in bags containing thousands of beads that, when exposed to water, become squishy jelly balls. And according to weather reports, it rained the day before the spheres were discovered. What exactly super-absorbent jelly balls are doing in the middle of nowhere is unknown.
And, although the purple spheres found in the Arizona desert strongly resemble super-absorbent jelly balls, a positive identity cannot be confirmed without further examination.
What do you think about this pile of strange spheres in the middle of the desert? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below, or on our Facebook page.