Antimatter thunderstorms surprise NASA

Jan 12, 2011
Antimatter thunderstorms surprise NASA

Last we heard, matter and antimatter couldn't be put together in the same picnic basket lest the universe explode; now scientists are telling us that the stuff is actually streaming out of storms. Researchers manning the Fermi telescope have discovered that violent thunderstorms are giving out both gamma rays and positrons, the antimatter-equivalent of electrons.

Those positrons (and the electrons) align with the Earth's magnetic field and spar out for huge distances. When they collide, it produces a flash of light and a distinct color; it's that color which the Fermi telescope spotted.

"I think this is one of the most exciting discoveries in the geosciences in quite a long time - the idea that any planet has thunderstorms that can create antimatter and then launch it into space in narrow beams that can be detected by orbiting spacecraft to me sounds like something straight out of science fiction" Steven Cummer, atmospheric electricity researcher, Duke University, North Carolina

The results of the research will be presented at the American Astronomical Society, and are expected to help researchers understand how lightning works. Scientists don't exactly know the implications of the discovery yet, but they're already calling it "truly amazing."

[via BBC]

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