Who would have thought that during a thunderstorm overhead, not only the strongest electrical discharges occur, but antimatter is also formed – one of the most mysterious substances in the universe.
It has long been known that lightning flashes give birth in the Earth’s atmosphere to nuclear reaction. To better understand their nature, scientists have installed several gamma-ray detectors along the western coast of Japan. During one of the thunderstorms they received long-awaited results: large flashes of gamma radiation were detected from the lightning that struck near the detector.
A detailed transcript showed that there were three types of gamma-ray bursts that lasted different times. The first and the shortest gamma-flash was caused directly by a lightning strike. The photons generated by it had enough energy to knock out photons and neutrons from the atoms of gases in the atmosphere – so a second gamma-flash appeared. The unstable atoms of nitrogen-13 and oxygen-15 appeared to decay, emitting a positron-antiparticle electron. After a few moments, the positron, like antimatter, is supposed to annihilate with the electron, releasing energy. These processes triggered the third – the longest gamma-ray burst.
It’s amazing that the antimatter that scientists have been searching for in the Universe for a long time and getting in the labs, wasting huge amounts of money, actually comes very close – right above our heads.