The average lightning bolt involves the transfer of a billion or so joules of energy. As it happens, a 2017 study doubled-down on the notion that lightning of any sort, thanks to their high-energy nature, are natural particle accelerators.
Bolts create a rapid cascade of electrons that were suspected to be colliding with atmospheric molecules and producing nuclear reactions in the sky. These reactions were thought to be producing high-energy gamma rays too, along with neutrinos, neutrons and positrons. earth science examples earth science topics why is earth science important
Models indicated that, during some lightning flashes, it was expected that a beam of electrons would shoot into space just as oppositely charged (and therefore repelled) positrons moved downwards, producing what is known as a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF). earth science examples earth science topics why is earth science important
TGFs have been detected by space-based instrumentation for several decades now, but the satellites up there were only seeing one half of the phenomenon.
Fortunately, the event detected by NOAA in 2015 has been found to match the models perfectly: ADELE picked up a downward blasted beam of positrons, a component of an upward-propagating radiation flare shooting off into space. earth science examples earth science topics why is earth science important
Detecting this TGF-linked antimatter beam wasn’t a surprise, but it is, however, the first time it’s been observed, which is clearly marvelous. If you’re wondering: no, you’d have to be right near the source of this beam for it to be of any danger. earth science examples earth science topics why is earth science important