One hundred years ago, scientists suggested that lightning might be causing a series of nuclear reactions in the sky. The electrons present during the process contain a lot of energy, which produce gamma rays. These gamma rays likely produced plenty of reactions, and researchers finally manage to catch a glimpse of them.
Lightning flashes might cause nuclear reactions in the sky
A team of researchers took a close look at a thunderstorm and the lightning it produced, and managed to observe the nuclear reactions which occurred. They knew that such a photonuclear reaction was theoretically possible, but they lacked the evidence that it actually occurred. Now, they developed a study on the process, which they published in the journal Nature.
To reveal the secret of the nuclear reactions, they had to study the gamma rays which were produced by lightning in the high layers of the atmosphere. These flashes contained both neutrons and positrons, so finding out how they worked could offer an insight into the formation of the nuclear reactions.
Therefore, they decided to perform several measurements with some radiation detectors at the nuclear power station at Niigata, on the coast of Japan. They did it during a thunderstorm which occurred this year in February and, as soon as the lightning flashed, they detected some intense radiation activity.
Lightning helped scientists detect antimatter in the sky
They also managed to detect something interesting occurring during the flashes. The bursts of gamma ray resembled the spectrum which controls the annihilation of antimatter. They measured the energetic equivalent of the bursts, and discovered a value of the positrons which clearly indicated the presence of antimatter.
Therefore, when lightning flashes in the sky, antimatter is also present around it. The discovery is massive, since this type of matter is incredibly difficult to detect, and occurs extremely rarely even in space.
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