Antimatter beams discovered above thunderstorms

Put this one in the “wow”
file.

This week, scientists say they’ve
discovered antimatter beams shooting above thunderstorms, a never-before seen
phenomenon.

“These signals are the first
direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams,” said Michael Briggs
of the University of Alabama in Huntsville
.

The antimatter beams were detected
from aboard NASA’s Fermi
Gamma-ray Space Telescope
. Acting like enormous particle accelerators, the
storms emit terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, called “TGFs,” along with
high-energy electrons and positrons. Scientists now think that most TGFs
produce particle beams and antimatter.

Estimates are that 500 such flashes
occur each day around the world.

“The Fermi results put us a
step closer to understanding how TGFs work,” said Steven
Cummer of Duke University
. “We still have to figure out what is
special about these storms and the precise role lightning plays in the
process,” he added.

Briggs presented the findings this
week at the American Astronomical
Society
meeting in Seattle. A paper on the findings has been accepted for
publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

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