A Burst Of Positrons Emerged From An African Thunderstorm – Earth Created Antimatter – And Possibly An Avenue To Future Clean Energy
Clouds of antimatter have been observed in our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and antimatter is created in the Sun’s solar flares but with the exception of particle accelerators, the phenomenon has never before been seen on Earth – Until Now –
Unknown until the launch of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope on June 11, 2008, designed to monitor gamma rays, (the highest energy form of light), from its orbit 350 miles above the Earth. Fermi was above Egypt on Dec. 14, 2009, when a thunderstorm was raging in Zambia, some 2,800 miles to the south. The distant storm was below Fermi’s horizon, so any gamma rays it produced could not have been detected. Even though Fermi was out of “the line of sight” of the storm, the spacecraft was magnetically connected to it. This storm created a terrestrial Gamma-ray Flash that produced high-speed electrons and positrons, which then rode up Earth’s magnetic field to strike the spacecraft. The beam continued past Fermi, reached a location, known as a mirror point, where its motion was reversed, and then hit the spacecraft a second time just 23 milliseconds later. Each time, positrons in the beam collided with electrons in the spacecraft. The particles annihilated each other, emitting gamma rays detected by Fermi’s Gamma-ray Burst Monitor.
Thunderstorms can create strong electric fields and energies high enough to accelerate electrons to create a gamma-ray flash that shoots off into space. These gamma-ray flashes in turn generate fast-moving electrons and positrons, (the antimatter equivalent of an electron). Reaching speeds nearly as fast as the speed of light, the collision of these two particles generates another gamma ray, which is picked up by the detectors on board Fermi.
Antimatter is called the mirror image of ordinary matter, meaning for every type of ordinary matter particle, an antimatter particle can be created that is identical except for an opposite electric charge.
Matter makes up most of what we can see, and antimatter, which also, in certain circumstances, can be seen. Matter is made up of atoms, such as hydrogen. A hydrogen atom has an electron (negative electric charge) that orbits a proton (positive electric charge). Antimatter hydrogen atoms are composed of the exact opposite: a positron (positive electric charge) orbits around an anti-proton (negative electric charge).
So, now the big question; why does antimatter matter to a green blog? Well Skippy, matter and antimatter don’t play well together. When their atoms meet, they annihilate each other in a tremendous burst of energy – 511,000 electron volts of energy to be precise. Pure energy with zero waste – energy that one day could be harvested.
Imagine a fleet of harvester and relay satellites beaming the harvested clean energy from thunderstorms to ground receiver stations on Earth and then to the grid. Feasible or science fiction? I vote feasible – for the future.
Another gift of pure clean energy from the Earth to her children….
…. as the green future unfolds.