Weather and Antimatter

You can't help but become intrigued whenever you see a word like "Antimatter". The word can bring up topics ranging from Science Fiction time travel to the creation of life itself. Thankfully we won't need a college edition of particle physics to understand this most recent discovery.

You can't help but become intrigued whenever you see a word like "Antimatter".  The word can bring up topics ranging from Science Fiction time travel to the creation of life itself.  Thankfully we won't need a college edition of particle physics to understand this most recent discovery.  Thanks to NASA, recent observations by an orbiting satellite has led us down a road that actually brings weather and particle physics together.  It shouldn't come as a surprise to find out that the strength of electricity can do some really funky things to the atmosphere.  For example, in the early 90s researchers discovered a lightning phenomena called Sprites (a burst of light that overshoots a thunderstorm that can reach 50 to 100 kilometers into the atmosphere).  Even more recently a NASA satellite set to detect Gamma rays picked up the antimatter flashes previously mentioned. 
 
Rather than climb down a very confusing ladder of particle physics and molecular composition we'll keep the discovery short and simple. Basically the satellite does not have the ability to see antimatter.  What this satellite picked up on was the output of gamma rays from a distant thunderstorm (nothing too shocking here).  Problem is, the satellite's location made it impossible for it to "see" these gamma rays.  So what was the satellite seeing/detecting? Basically, the satellite detected a wave of particles riding along the earth's magnetic field.  Within this wave were electrons and positrons.  From what I have been able to gather, where you find a positron you find antimatter (a lot like the smoke and fire analogy).  The opposing force for a positron is just that, antimatter. Pretty cool stuff! 
 
If you would like a more in-depth understanding of what went on here I'll post the NASA link at the bottom of the page.  In the end, this discovery really does nothing but create even more questions about lightning, antimatter, and the atmosphere.  That being said, it's interesting to think that the next time you are watching a thunderstorm roll by, you may just be a witness to the creation of antimatter.
 
NASA Link:
 
-Matt Engelbrecht

 

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