NASA Observes Antimatter Streaming from Thunderstorms on Earth
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March 29, 2012

NASA Observes Antimatter Streaming from Thunderstorms on Earth

 

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"We see gamma-ray bursts, one of the most distant phenomena we know about in the Universe, we see bursts from soft gamma-ray repeaters in our galaxy, flashes of gamma rays from solar flares, our solar neighborhood -- and now we're also seeing gamma rays from thunderstorms right here on Earth,"  said Julie McEnery, Fermi project scientist at Nasa.

In 2011, the Fermi space telescope accidentally spotted thunderstorms on Earth producing beams of antimatter. Such storms have long been known to give rise to fleeting sparks of light called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. But results from the Fermi telescope show they also give out streams of electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons.

It deepens a mystery about terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs -- sparks of light that are estimated to occur 500 times a day in thunderstorms on Earth. They are a complex interplay of light and matter whose origin is poorly understood.

Thunderstorms are known to create tremendously high electric fields -- evidenced by lightning strikes. Electrons in storm regions are accelerated by the fields, reaching speeds near that of light and emitting high-energy light rays -- gamma rays -- as they are deflected by atoms and molecules they encounter.
These flashes are intense -- for a thousandth of a second, they can produce as many charged particles from one flash as are passing through the entire Earth's atmosphere from all other processes.

The Fermi space telescope is designed to capture gamma rays from all corners of the cosmos, and sports specific detectors for short bursts of gamma rays that both distant objects and TGFs can produce.

"One of the great things about the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor is that it detects flashes of gamma rays all across the cosmic scale," explained Julie McEnery.

The Daily Galaxy via BBC

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Comments

This makes me wonder:

First, is there also a natural source for antiprotons anywhere on Earth? Do they also appear in these thunderstorms, or could there be some other location -- even in orbit, or somewhere else not too terribly far away?

Second, if antiprotons are being produced somewhere in our neighborhood, could it be possible to develop a way to collect this antimatter -- both the positrons and the antiprotons -- and store it as antihydrogen?

Third, if that capture and storage is possible, could it ever be cost-effective as an energy source?

We have been repeatedly told that we don't have the technology to produce meaningful amounts of antimatter. It seems that nature disagrees. As the previous commentator observed, if we could find a way to emulate this natural phenomenon, perhaps we can find a way to capture this antimatter and use it for fuel for future exploration. Certainly worth exploring the possibilities.

possibly collecting will not be possible !


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