Forget the Hadron Collider, thunderstorms shoot bursts of antimatter into space every day

back-to-the-future-lightning-clock-tower-gamma-ray

Trekkers, you can start blueprinting those warp drives now. Scientists have finally found antimatter, and it’s emitted every time lightning strikes, reports the American Astronomical Society.  Antimatter, though usually the subject of science fiction, is the opposite of matter. In antimatter, protons have negative charges, electrons have positive charges, etc. Though lightning storms have been known to spur gamma-ray flashes, the Fermi telescope has discovered that they also shoot out electrons and antimatter positrons.

This is the first time antimatter has been discovered, incontrovertibly, in thunderstorms. The Fermi telescope is designed to study gamma-ray bursts both distant and near.

The BBC explains: “When gamma rays pass near the nuclei of atoms, they can turn their energy into two particles: an electron-positron pair. Because electrons and positrons are charged, they align along the Earth’s magnetic field lines and can travel vast distances, gathered into tightly focused beams of matter and antimatter heading in opposite directions. The dance of light and matter continues when positrons encounter electrons again; they recombine and produce a flash of light of a precise and characteristic colour. It is this colour of light, picked up by the Fermi’s GBM, that is a giveaway that antimatter has been produced. The magnetic field can transport the particles vast distances before this characteristic flash, and one of the Fermi detections was from a storm that was happening completely beyond the horizon.”

Scientists say this discovery helps us better understand the nature of lightning and gamma-rays. It is more difficult to say what, if any, impact this will have on science in the short term. Before now, antimatter could only be created at huge collider facilities like CERN.

Knowledgeable on antimatter? Comment and let us know what your thoughts are. Is there any practical value to knowing where to find antimatter?

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