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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Thunderstorms Make Antimatter
11 January 2011 12:58 pm
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—Thunderstorms produce beams of antimatter. That's the surprising finding reported here yesterday at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Scientists already knew about flashes of high-energy gamma-rays from Earth, which are associated with large thunderstorms. Every day, about 500 of these terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are produced worldwide by accelerated electrons interacting with air molecules. Now, astrophysicists working with NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have found that some of the high-energy gamma-ray photons from TGFs are converted into pairs of electrons and positrons, the positively charged antiparticles of electrons. Every now and then, the orbiting space telescope is hit by some of these antimatter particles, which rush through Earth's magnetic field. When the positrons collide with electrons in the atoms that make up the spacecraft, they annihilate each other, producing gamma-ray photons with a telltale energy in the process. The role of lightning in the production of gamma rays and antimatter is still unclear, but the new discovery might help physicists better understand the mysterious TGF's.
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