Something strange is afoot in the Crab Nebula. Famous for beaming a steady dose of radiation at Earth at regular intervals thanks to the spinning neutron star at its center, the nebula has long been of interest to astronomers. So one can imagine their interest when an enormous gamma-ray flare five times more powerful than any previously detected burst from the region, making these "the highest-energy electrons known to be associated with any cosmic source," according to NASA.
Thunderstorms produce beams of antimatter particles that rain into space, NASA scientists said this week, shedding more light on one of the weirdest Earth physics stories of recent memory.
Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, which are brief, powerful bursts produced inside thunderstorms, apparently produce high-speed streams of electrons and positrons that are swept up in Earth’s magnetic field. Scientists are still not sure how TGFs work or how lightning enters the equation, however.
A Harvard astronomer and his team have turned up something quite big while running publicly available data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and by big we mean both in scientific magnitude and in astronomical size: two massive gamma-ray emitting bubbles extending 25,000 light-years both north and south of the Milky Way’s center. The researchers aren’t sure where they come from or why they’re there, but the discovery of this massive new structure in the heart of our own galaxy is being equated to discovering a new continent on Earth.
Whilst carrying out its normal workaday duties of scanning corners of the universe billions of light years from Earth, the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope has made a discovery that hits decidedly closer to home: lightning strikes on Earth carry the signature of antimatter.
Gamma ray flashes detected in terrestrial storms were of the decaying-positron variety, indicating not only that lightning can produce the antimatter equivalent of electrons, but also that somehow the electric field normally produced by a lightning storm somehow reversed.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.