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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Zeus's thunderbolts of antimatter!

 Image credit: Joe Dwyer/Florida Inst. of Technology

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, designed to search for antimatter in the farthest reaches of the solar system, has recently detected beams of antimatter launched by thunderstorms right here in our backyards!!!  Apparently, thunderheads act like enormous particle accelerators emitting not only gamma-ray flashes (magenta in above pic) which scientists knew about, but also newly discovered jets of particle beams (yellow) and antimatter (green).  This is going on tens to hundreds of kilometers above our heads!

Watch the Gamma Ray/antimatter burst in all its full-screen exploding beauty by clicking here (really, the antimatter look like little worms trying to escape).

Steven Cummer, an atmospheric electricity researcher from Duke University, to the BBC:

"I think this is one of the most exciting discoveries in the geosciences in quite a long time - the idea that any planet has thunderstorms that can create antimatter and then launch it into space in narrow beams that can be detected by orbiting spacecraft to me sounds like something straight out of science fiction."

Anne, you knew this all along didn't you?  And does this mean we didn't really need the nine billion dollar Large Hadron Collider after all?   Thanks Steve P. for the "heads up"!