back to article Thunderstorms found to squirt antimatter into space

Top NASA boffins analysing data from a gamma-ray telescope satellite in orbit above the Earth say they have discovered that thunderstorms, in addition to the various other things they do, emit "beams of antimatter" out of their tops. "These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is the fact that the antimatter heads upwards evidence that antimatter is repulsed by a gravity well?

    1. ArmanX

      I'm thinking not...

      I think it might be more likely that the anti-matter is created in a sphere, but that which is aimed downwards, or horizontally, immediately contacts matter and is destroyed, while the upwardly-mobile anti-matter blasts off through the upper atmosphere and into space, due to the dearth of matter in that direction.

    2. Oliver Mayes

      Nope, nothing so interesting

      The antimatter is just repelled by the Earth's magnetic field

    3. Anonymous Coward


      not if the particles are created by upstrike lightening (see Jets & Sprites), they would continue in the direction that they were created in.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      No, but the evil twin is invariably the one made of anti-matter.

  2. Anonymous John
    Thumb Up


    All we need now is warp drive,

  3. envmod

    great scott!

    1.21 GIGAWATTS??!!??!??!

    1. jcipale

      Where is Doc Brown...

      ...when we need him most?

      (Mine is the London Fog with bullet holes)

  4. Rob Haswell
    Thumb Up

    Production values

    That was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most well-produced NASA video I've ever seen. Also I think more informative than usual.

  5. AceRimmer1980

    Dumb question time

    If the physical processes can be understood, does this open up another possible avenue for antimatter production?

    Alien, cos antimatter-powered warp drives enable the seeking out of new life and new civilizations.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


      Only if they can find the elusive Briggs Whoreson particle.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    now all we need...

    .. is a way to artificially duplicate this effect, artificially create a focusing crystal to control the reaction (I suggest we call them dilitium crystals) and then space flight becomes even cheaper.

  7. E 2

    Let me be the first

    to welcome our positronic cloud-like overlords!

  8. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    Can they use this to find other planets with lightning?

    Perhaps there's a gamma energy signature of lightning, and thus of damp terrestial atmospheres.


  9. Llanfair


    Is this the same as sprites? Or is this just with normal lightning?

    1. Spartacus

      I was about to ask that....

      curious if the sprites (which also emit light) are the same wavelength as that detected by the sat.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "along the curving field lines"

    That should be "orthogonally" to the curving (magnetic) field lines. These are not electric field lines.

  11. bigphil9009
    Thumb Up

    Science - it rocks

    This is brilliant. The best thing about this sort of science is that it reminds us that we still have so much to learn about what we would normally consider mundane. It should be a lesson to us all to never give up questioning the world around us.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      A good start..

      .. would be to never give up questioning the politicians around us..

      They're the best evidence of alternate realities we have to date :-)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The appliance of science

    Well at least we now know where all the missing socks go.

  13. StuartMcL

    Missing Heat?

    That must be where all the missing heat goes

  14. thecakeis(not)alie

    With any luck...

    …this will lead to some neat discoveries that boil down to "here is how we can generate antimatter far more efficiently than using an expensive particle accelerator." I know it's unlikely, but I am still going to cross my fingers for commercially viable antimatter generation. Even if half the energy is lost as neutrinos (and gamma rays are a **** to extract energy from) its one step closer to a viable deep space energy source.

    Imagine the ion drive you could build with that puppy! Probes to Alpha Centauri with telemetry inside a single human lifespan! The mind, it boggles…

  15. The Sod Particle

    damned planet!

    time and again the human race strives to achieve what one was thought impossible, only to find later that something on our planet has been quietly doing it all along.

    I think the greatest thing man has achieved that nature hasn't beaten us to must be the humble wheel.

    make you wonder why we bother.

    1. thecakeis(not)alie

      Dung Beetles

      They roll poo into a ball so they can move it from place to place more efficiently. They aren't the only ones, either.

      Wheel? Nature uses spheres, dude...

      1. Veldan

        Cows with guns?

        Though i don't think I've seen anything in nature using gunpowder in a rifled barrel to propel and object great distances...

        Nor anything closely resembling a combustion engine and drive train...

        I mean, nature is impressive and all but we can't belittle our greatest achievements.

      2. Sooner Boomer

        Dung Beetles

        So that feller's roller-ball vacuum is basicly a pile of dung?

      3. Anonymous John

        Well, yes.

        But they didn't invent the axle, did they? Wheels aren't much use without an axle.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          title is required

          Dude - already done in nature (bacterial flagella)

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    A natural earth bound event which isn't a nuclear explosion generates an antimatter pulse.

    It *might* be worthwhile re-opening any unexplained satellite failures below 1000Km (roughly the inner Van Allen radiation belt) to see if any of their electronics could have been cooked by this.

    Note however that satellites in orbit get a fair radiation battering as they pass through the South Atlantic Anomaly due to the weakening of the Earth's magnetic field.

  17. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  18. TeeCee Gold badge

    Are the shields up to this?

    "The positrons then annihilated themselves as they encountered normal matter within the satellite..."

    <Mr Scott>

    "She's holding cap'n, but I dinna ken how long she'll stand up to this treatment."

    </Mr Scott>

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personally ...

    I can't help but feel there's something fundamentally flawed in this latest NASA report.

    Positrons are being fleetingly created all the time in terrestrial nature spontaneously anyhow (in oceans for example they come and go through the decay of radio-isotopes) but I don't see how they could make it through the atmosphere without meeting electrons on their way and all being annihilated in lots of small events rather than large single ones.

    Did a physics degree 25 years ago and this sounds completely at odds with my understanding of natural processes.

  20. Magnus_Pym
    Thumb Up

    Ball Lightning

    I wonder if this goes some way to explaining ball light. A lot of scientist don't believe it exists and those that do come up with explanations which look a lot like:

    Storm -> ? -> Ball Lightning

    But, well, if there is antimatter hanging around anything is possible.

  21. Gerry Doyle 1

    Nature does use rifling in barrels

    If you're male, look down next time you're having a wee and notice how the stream actually spirals - that's because of the rifling in the, erm, barrel. No gunpowder as such, but there is of course the other thing...

  22. Psymon

    nature vs science

    Indeed, barrels are used thoughout nature. As for chemical explosions, much rarer, but they do exsist.

    The bombardier beetle releases two chemical simultaniously from its abdomen. If Wickipedia is accurate, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide, which react violently, deterring predators.

    Nature is amazing on many levels, but don't let the hippies fool you. The overwhelming majority of machines we produce are vastly more efficient at their task than natures solutions.

    Flight, for example. Your average Boeing uses far less energy to achieve flight than any bird or insect. Nature can't even build a land animal of the same weight, let alone for flight.

    In fact, the heaviest animal ever known is the blue whale, tipping in at 180 metric tons, The Antonov An-225 could quite happily fly said whale, with 70 tons spare for provisions to keep our whale alive and in relative comfort during the 2,500 mile journey, faster than any lifeform at 500mph.

    This is primarily due to the infinately rotatable axel. Something nature can never achieve.

    We have long since outrun nature in everything we strive for.

    What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,

    how infinite in faculties, in form and moving,

    how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension,

    how like a god!

  23. bugalugs

    I'm interested

    that the anti-matter squirts move along the magnetic field lines.Can we correlate them with the earth's orbital trajectory ? And that some impossible percentage of the universe is so-called " dark " matter. What is this system that seems to be be ecliptically sneezing positronic magnetoids from ( solar-powered ) hydraulic events ? Friction, electricity, coriolis, magnetism, wheels made by nature but axles made by ?man?............ More kite flying needed methinks. ( a major lightning-bolt core does something what-a-strophic leading to these discharges ? )

    A ten-year old green bottle hangs on the wall....

  24. Gusty O'Windflap

    Dung beetles

    are they related to piss ants?

  25. Max_Normal


    Where positrons are emitted by radioisotope labelled metabolites for use in Positron Emission Tomography, the positron can usually travel a couple of millimetres through human body tissue before it meets an electron and you get an annhilation event, hence the low resolution of PET scans. You have to remember that mostly atoms are comprised of space and very little matter, and Van De Waals radii (The effective diameter of the whole atom) don't really count here. It brings to mind the old chestnut where a hydrogen atom is described by an orange on the centre spot of Wembly representing the nucleus and a pea in the car park represents the electron. Obviously, air is far more rarefied of electrons than water (The main electron-containing constituent of body tissue), so the positron is free to pass right through the space inside a lot of atoms before it meets an electron. Moreover, the chances of a positron meeting an electron is entirely stochastic, and even in water, if you provide enough positrons, some will travel much further then a couple of mm, so the number of positrons that make it into space is also highly dependent on the number of positrons that are emitted in the first instance.

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