Thunderstorms Spawn Antimatter
2011-01-12 0:00

By Thomas H. Maugh II |

To the great surprise of physicists and meteorologists alike, NASAís orbiting Fermi gamma-ray observatory has discovered that thunderstorms are emitting powerful bursts of antimatter into space.

Antimatter is a mirror image of normal matter with unusual properties ó protons with negative charges, electrons with positive charges, and so on. It was created in equal abundance to normal matter at the beginning of the universe, but was destroyed when it came in contact with the normal matter and is now primarily the subject of fiction: the material that powers the starship Enterprise, the bomb beneath the Vatican in the novel "Angels & Demons," and so on.

Very small amounts have been produced by powerful particle accelerators including CERNís Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, but can be captured for only fractions of a second. Thatís why researchers are so astonished to see antimatter being produced by such a common event as lightning.

In retrospect, "we can say, íWhy didnít we realize that was happening?í " said physicist Joseph R. Dwyer of the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla., a coauthor of a paper about the findings that is scheduled to appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Even so, "itís surprising that we are seeing so muchÖ. It illustrates the amazing things that thunderstorms can do."

Some indirect evidence in the past suggested that antimatter might be emitted by lightning, added electrical engineer Steven Cummer of Duke University, who studies lightning and the radio emissions from it. "But this is the first time it has been absolutely, unambiguously detected," he said.

Fermi, launched in 2008, detects gamma rays, the highest-energy form of electromagnetic waves ó a spectrum that includes light rays. When a positron produced by a thunderstorm strikes an electron on the satellite, it releases gamma rays with a characteristic energy of 511,000 electron-volts. Such an event linked to a thunderstorm is known as a terrestrial gamma-ray flash. Fermi has witnessed 130 such events since its launch.

Most such events occurred when the satellite was directly over a storm. But one event, on Dec. 14, 2009, occurred when Fermi was over Egypt and the nearest active storm was in Zambia, about 2,800 miles to the south and well below the satelliteís horizon.

But the spacecraft was connected to the storm by the Earthís magnetic field, Dwyer said. Particles rode up the lines of force and struck the craft. Some went past it and reached what is known as a mirror point, where increasing magnetic-field strength caused the particles to reverse their direction and journey back to strike Fermi 23 milliseconds after the first group.

Researchers still have only the roughest of ideas what is happening inside a thunderstorm when lightning is triggered. What is clear is that electric fields build up and accelerate electrons almost to the speed of light, like a giant particle accelerator in the sky, Dwyer said. The electrons "bump into air atoms and make gamma rays, which blast electrons and antielectrons out of the atmosphere."

Whatís interesting, Cummer added, "is if we take what we know is happening and calculate how much antimatter might be produced, itís quite a bit less than what was observedÖ. So clearly, we donít have a lot of the details."

The research was also presented Monday at a Seattle meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Article from:

Fermi Sees Antimatter-Hurling Thunderstorms

Video from:

Related Articles
Thunder and Lightning a rare sight in Iceland - Weather Experimentation Connected with the Norway Aurora Light?
Thunderbolts of the Gods (Video)
Lightning Captured by X-Ray CameraóA First
A Social History of Ball Lightning
6-storey Jesus statue struck by lightning, burned to ground (Zeus sought for questioning ;) )
Strange íSquid-likeí Lightning Spotted over France
Scientist Looks to Weaponize Ball Lightning
DARPA: Hacking Nature to Create Weapons of the Gods

Latest News from our Front Page

ISIS Oil Trade Full Frontal: "Raqqa's Rockefellers," Bilal Erdogan, KRG Crude, And The Israel Connection
2015-11-30 21:56
"Effectively, we have been financially discriminated against for a long time. By early 2014, when we did not receive the budget, we decided we need to start thinking about independent oil sales‚ÄĚ --  Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan‚Äôs minister for natural resources In June of 2014, the SCF Altai (an oil tanker) arrived at Ashkelon port. Hours later, the first shipment of Kurdish ...
Prosecutors ban Soros Foundation as 'threat to Russian national security'
2015-11-30 21:04
The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has recognized George Soros’s Open Society Institute and another affiliated organization as undesirable groups, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in any of their projects. In a statement released on Monday, prosecutors said the activities of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation were a threat to the foundations of Russia’s ...
Israeli Colonel Caught with Islamic State (IS) Pants Down
2015-11-30 21:11
This was definitely not supposed to happen. It seems that an Israeli military man with the rank of colonel was ‚Äúcaught with IS pants down.‚ÄĚ By that I mean he was captured amid a gaggle of so-called IS‚Äďor Islamic State or ISIS or DAESH depending on your preference‚Äďterrorists, by soldiers of the Iraqi army. Under interrogation by the Iraqi intelligence ...
Uh-Oh 14,000 Illegal Immigrants in Sweden Disappear without a Trace
2015-11-30 20:10
More than 14,000 foreign nationals told to leave Sweden have instead gone underground, with police saying there is little they can do to enforce deportation orders. A total of 21,748 people had been given deportation orders by the Migration Agency at the end of October ‚Äď the largest number in history, the Aftonbladet tabloid reported on Friday. Of those, 14,140 are registered ...
Munich Jews battle in court over Holocaust remembrance
2015-11-30 20:42
Two Jewish groups in Munich are at odds over how to remember the Holocaust. The situation has escalated, and now one of the groups is suing the city. The argument centers on ‚ÄėStolpersteine‚Äô - bronze memorial plaques that can be found all over Germany, but not in Munich. In July, Munich voted to continue the ban on Stolpersteine first introduced in ...
More News »