Thunderstorms Spawn Antimatter
By Thomas H. Maugh II | LATimes.com
To the great surprise of physicists and meteorologists alike, NASA’s 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 — 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 CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, but can be captured for only fractions of a second. That’s why researchers are so astonished to see antimatter being produced by such a common event as lightning.
In retrospect, "we can say, ’Why didn’t we realize that was happening?’ " 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, "it’s surprising that we are seeing so much…. 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 — 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 satellite’s horizon.
But the spacecraft was connected to the storm by the Earth’s 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."
What’s interesting, Cummer added, "is if we take what we know is happening and calculate how much antimatter might be produced, it’s quite a bit less than what was observed…. So clearly, we don’t have a lot of the details."
The research was also presented Monday at a Seattle meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
Article from: latimes.com
Fermi Sees Antimatter-Hurling Thunderstorms
Video from: YouTube.com
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 Camera—A First
A Social History of Ball Lightning
6-storey Jesus statue struck by lightning, burned to ground (Zeus sought for questioning ;) )
Strange ’Squid-like’ 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
Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North.
The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night.
A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked.
The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough.
Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield.
Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants
Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July.
The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown.
The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent.
He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are.
London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race.
Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event.
|More News » |