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NASA Space Science

Thunderstorms Proven To Create Antimatter 153

radioweather writes "Scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected beams of antimatter from thunderstorms in the form of positrons hurled into space. Scientists think the antimatter particles were formed in a terrestrial gamma-ray flash, a brief burst produced inside thunderstorms and shown to be associated with lightning. 'These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams,' said Michael Briggs, a member of Fermi's Gamma-ray Burst Monitor team. He presented the findings at a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle."
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Thunderstorms Proven To Create Antimatter

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, when can we place those beams on shark heads?

  • He'll want to know he was right...

    -- []

  • by halcyon1234 ( 834388 ) <> on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @09:26AM (#34834802) Journal
    So this is exactly like the LHC, right? How can clouds be so irresponsible to create ANTIMATTER that will destroy the entire planet, just because they can! I saw what happened when Neo let a single drop of antimatter fall out of the Millennium Falcon to destroy the elves' homeworld. Why won't Obama do something about this "lightning"? He's in the pocket of the lightning rod industry!
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @09:26AM (#34834806)

    Does this process potentially make the world more massive, in creating particle pairs - one of which escapes into space? Would this potentially be a way of testing gravity theories in controlled circumstances?

    Ryan Fenton

    • A thunderstorm is hardly "controlled circumstances." And who said anything about pairs?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nedlohs ( 1335013 )

      No, because for every pair of which a positron escapes and a electron doesn't, there's another pair for which an electron escapes but the positron does not. On average it will make no difference.

    • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

      No, it generates electron-positron pairs. If the positron escapes into space, the Earth is less massive by the mass of one positron.

      Despite being called "antimatter", antiparticles have positive energies and positive masses, just like regular particles.

    • Umm, guys... *even* if this mechanism didn't have all the problems described, there's still *energy* conservation. The energy to create those particle pairs *still* would have had to come from a terrestrial source (or extracted from a non-terrestrial source that would have otherwise increased the mass of the Earth absent this behavior).

      Antimatter doesn't have negative mass. *If* the positrons *were* able to escape, that would imply that the world would become *less* massive, not more. Because some of its

    • Does this process potentially make the world more massive, in creating particle pairs - one of which escapes into space?

      Nope. Makes the planet lighter by the amount of mass + (kinetic energy / csquared) that escaped.

      That's because the energy that created them came from the Earth, where it had been for a while (even if it had previously come from sunlight rather than geothermal or combustion sources) and the energy itself - either as energy or as the difference of mass between two forms (before and after) o

  • You mean like 5 metres by 150mm by 100mm

    I thought antimatter would only be created one or 2 antiprotons and positrons at a time.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @09:31AM (#34834822) Homepage Journal
    With 1.21 gigawatts you can even go back to the future
  • I am wondering if there might be some way we can use lightning to launch spacecraft or other vehicles/matter into orbit?
    • An lightning flash has an enery of about 500 Megajoule, which wil drive your electric car for 2000 km. No other fuel required, just put an iron rod on top and have a reload time of a few seconds...

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        The only technologically feasible way to capture lightning energy right now is to have an effing big capacitor. Building-size-effing-big. There's nothing smaller that can be charged to megavolts within a millisecond or so and survive it.

    • I am wondering if there might be some way we can use lightning to launch spacecraft or other vehicles/matter into orbit?

      I think it would probably be inefficient to delay a launch until there happened to be a thunderstorm over the lightning rods/space shuttle. Plus, while I'm not a rocket scientist, nor do I work at NASA, it seems to me like there might be issues with launching in a thunderstorm.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Coming up on Mytrhbusters; Does antimatter and matter really explode when it comes into contact with each other?

  • Now when we're invaded by aliens, we'll just induce a couple of thunderstorms directly beneath their ships as they approach!

  • "Does it mean it doesn't matter?"
  • Sprites / elves? (Score:4, Informative)

    by popoutman ( 189497 ) * on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @10:18AM (#34835142) Journal
    This is most likely related to the phenomena known as Sprites, Jets or Elves, that have been captured coming from the tops of thunderclouds. Better explanations here []
  • by KDN ( 3283 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @10:37AM (#34835314)

    What gave them the idea to look for these antimatter bursts? Did some scientist theorize it was possible and ask them to look? Or did the spacecraft start receiving bursts that they eventually tracked down to thunderstorms on earth?

    • by GammaRay Rob ( 452271 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @11:01AM (#34835584)

      Terrestrial Gamma Flashes have been detected by orbiting instruments for some time; at least since 1991,iirc. What's new here is the definite signature of positron annihilation; this can only be done with a sufficiently large detector looking at the right energy. The Burst Monitor on Fermi was designed to catch the medium energies of gamma-ray bursts (as well as low- and high energies), so this was a nice add-on to the main science.

      • by Anonymous Coward


        Thanks for the BATSE plug.
        For the past ~14 years (~1993 to 2007), I couldn't get anyone else, even on our own team, interested in TGFs, theory or obervations. It took the RHESSI observations, and the efforts of the fine scientists, David Smith and Joe Dwyer, along with the RHESSI observations, to invigorate the field. (Bob Malozzi and Berl Peterson were the only two persons who worked with me on TGFs in ~1999. Now its a big deal.


        • And in English, this means?
          • That he'll probably now be able to get a research grant to study this more closely after 14 years of trying to get people interested in what is, to him (and many of us on Slashdot), a fascinating phenomenon.
      • by KDN ( 3283 )

        Yes, gamma ray bursts were originally used by the military to detect nuclear weapons testing. It was then they found out that gamma ray bursts came from space as well. I was hoping to see an ironic loop in that gamma ray detectors set up to detect nuclear explosions on earth found gamma ray bursts in space. And that further study of the space phenomena led to discovery of phenomena here on earth.

        • Yeah, first the proved that aliens have nuclear bombs, and then they found that flashes are nuclear explosions. :-)

  • Are you telling me that we are that much closer to getting our warp drives???

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Nope still screwed.... we still have not found a source for Dilithium Crystals.

  • Charge up the anti-matter engine and prepare for an infusion of 1.21 Gigawatts! We're going BACK... the future!

  • This is what happens when physicists get stoned during a thunder storm...

    - Dan.
  • Who has peer reviewed this claim? Who has tested it? This is Science by Press Release.
  • If electrical discharges in a thunderstorm can concentrate energy enough to create gammas energetic enough to create electron-positron pairs (2 x 511 keV), I'd expect that (given the large concentrations of hydrogen in the cloud's water) they can also produce initiation energy for nontrivial amounts of nuclear fusion. (D D or D T at about 15 keV or P B at about 123 keV.) These reactions produce tens of MeV of output energy, some of which could appear as the gammas that produce electron-positron pairs.

    It w

Air is water with holes in it.