Who would have thought that during thunderstorms not only the strongest electric discharges occur overhead, but also the formation of antimatter – one of the most mysterious substances in the universe.
It has long been known that lightning flashes cause nuclear reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere. To better understand their nature, scientists installed several gamma ray detectors along the west coast of Japan. During one of the thunderstorms they received the long-awaited results: large gamma ray bursts from a lightning strike near the detector were detected.
A detailed transcript showed that there were three types of gamma ray bursts, which lasted for different periods of time. The first and shortest gamma flash was caused directly by a lightning strike. The resulting photons had enough energy to knock photons and neutrons out of the atoms of the gases in the atmosphere – so the second gamma-ray burst occurred. The resulting unstable atoms of nitrogen-13 and oxygen-15 decayed, emitting a positron, the antiparticle of the electron. After a few moments the positron, as antimatter is supposed to do, annihilates with the electron, releasing energy. These processes caused the third and longest gamma ray burst.
It is surprising that antimatter, which scientists have been searching for a long time in the Universe and obtain in laboratories, spending enormous amounts of money, actually appears quite nearby – right above our heads.