Fermi Science Standoff
Thunderstorms Hurling Antimatter

Thunderstorms Hurling Antimatter into Space
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The Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) has detected gamma-rays with energies of 511,000 electron volts, a signal indicating an electron has met its antimatter counterpart, a positron. When antimatter striking Fermi collides with a particle of normal matter, both particles are immediately annihilated and transformed into gamma-rays.

The GBM has detected over 4000 of these so-called Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs) since Fermi's launch in 2008. The observatory was located immediately above a thunderstorm for most (but not all) of the observed TGFs. TGFs produce a beam of high-speed electrons and positrons, which then ride up Earth's magnetic field to strike Fermi. This beam can continue past Fermi, reach a location known as a mirror point, where its motion is reversed, and then hit Fermi a second time just milliseconds later. Each time, positrons in the beam collide with electrons in the spacecraft. The particles annihilate each other, emitting gamma-rays detected by the GBM.

The detection of positrons shows that many high-energy particles are being ejected from the atmosphere. In fact, scientists now think that all TGFs emit electron/positron beams.

» https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/fermi-thunderstorms.html