Thursday, January 3, 2013

More Gamma Rays and thunderstorms info

Anyone reading this blog (and yes, I do wonder why you do), should know my fascination with lightning, thunderstorms and the mysterious things going on ALL THE TIME above thunderstorms. Here's some exciting news.
Tiny “Firefly” satellite may solve mystery about lightning
I love evidence, and what's better than a tiny satellite the size of a half gallon milk carton?

When thunderstorms happen, powerful electric fields stretch upward for miles, into the upper atmosphere. These electric fields accelerate free electrons, whirling them to speeds that are close to the speed of light.
The 'Firefly' CubeSat will fly through thunderstorms and lightning. Credit: NASA
When these ultra-high-speed electrons collide with molecules in the air, they release high-energy gamma rays as well as more electrons, starting a cascade of electrons and TGFs.
"Gamma rays are thought to be emitted by electrons traveling at or near the speed of light when they're slowed down by interactions with atoms in the upper atmosphere," says Moretto Jorgensen. "TGFs are among our atmosphere's most interesting phenomena."

Who knew we have high energy particle accelerators all over the planet, all the time?  

Meteorologists estimate that, at any given moment, some 1,800 thunderstorms are in progress over Earth's surface, and about 18 million a year around the world. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 to 125,000 thunderstorms occur in the United States each year. 
Read more:

That's a lot of particle acceleration, antimatter and gamma rays going on.  

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