NASA: Storms blast antimatter into space
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has detected antimatter shooting out of thunderstorms, NASA says.
January 13th, 2011
12:26 PM ET

NASA: Storms blast antimatter into space

If you find thunderstorms scary, here's one more thing to think about: Scientists say some big boomers create antimatter.

Certain lightning flashes produce terrestrial gamma ray flashes, which indicate the presence of antimatter, said Michael Briggs, a member of the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor team at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The team works with NASA's space-based Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Strong electrical fields near the top of a storm blast electrons upward a NASA article explains. When they're deflected by air molecules, the electrons emit gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light.

Some gamma rays pass near the nuclei of atoms and are transformed into electrons and positrons, or antimatter, and shoot off into space, the article says. When the positrons smack into electrons on the orbiting Fermi, they change back to gamma rays, providing evidence of their existence.

The Alabama team has detected gamma rays with energies of 511,000 electron volts, a signal indicating an electron has met its antimatter counterpart, a positron.

"These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams," said Briggs, who presented the findings this week during the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Washington.

Why does antimatter matter? Physicists believe that the interaction of matter and antimatter produces pure energy with zero waste - energy that one day could be harnessed and put to use.

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Filed under: Science • Space • Weather
soundoff (187 Responses)
  1. Joe

    STFU Wesley!!!!

    January 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob Hannigan

    I wish I was Zeus, king of the gods master of thunder and lightning bolts.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt C

    There's a lot of conversation about why the insulation is put on the outside versus inside of the Shuttle Tank. There are two reasons cost and weight. You can't have contaminants inside the tank or anything that can react with oxygen. One tiny speck of debris inside a cryogenic tank causes the whole thing to fail. Also it's a lot easier and cheaper to just rotate the tank like a rotisserie and spray foam on than put it on the inside. If they put it on the inside they'd need to have it sandwiched between two skins. That would add a lot of weight.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PartisanSheep

    Whill Whheeton

    January 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. olLIE

    i'll give you a positron...

    January 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. olLIE

    no anti-matter stands a chance against the cleaning power of clorox!

    January 13, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lynn

    Will someone invent a Flux Capacitor already so we can harness it to go.....Back To The Future!

    January 13, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Casan

    That is a a pathetic way to conceal an anti-matter weapons tests. I got better better ideas to conceal this from foreign spy satellites. Find me.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Architect.

      I'd really rather not.

      January 13, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. rcwhite364

    Of course it creates pure energy. Haven't these guys seen Star Trek? We've been "using" it since 1967!

    January 13, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
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