Thunderstorms Produce Antimatter, According to NASA

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An artist's concept of antimatter spraying above a thunderhead. [Photo: NASA]
A space telescope meant to look at high-energy gamma-ray bursts from across the universe has been detecting antimatter being created in Earth’s atmosphere. From its vantage point in orbit above the Earth, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has been observing the collisions of matter and antimatter generated by thunderstorms, says NASA.

Thunderstorms can create strong electric fields and energies high enough to accelerate electrons to create a gamma-ray flash. These gamma-ray flashes in turn generate fast-moving electrons and positrons, the antimatter equivalent of an electron. The collision of these two particles generates another gamma ray, which is picked up by the detectors on board Fermi.

We’re always excited here at GeekTech about new ways to generate positrons (and this discovery means that you don’t have to steal your antimatter from CERN’s accelerators in Switzerland); indeed, it’s probably being generated the next time an electrical storm passes through your area.

[via NASA]

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