Scientists of the University of California have registered a beam of positrons, which arose in the center of the strongest tropical cyclone “Patricia”. This was the first observation of antimatter, which was formed in the atmosphere as a result of a terrestrial flash of gamma rays.
Hurricane Patricia, which hit Mexico on October 23, 2015, has become the most powerful cyclone in the Western Hemisphere in the history of observation and has killed at least six people. To study atmospheric phenomena associated with the storm, a Hurricane Hunters aircraft belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was sent inside the cyclone. On board was the detector ADELE, which allows to register X-rays and gamma rays, as well as associated positron fluxes.
According to theoretical models, the terrestrial outburst of gamma rays occurs when electrons accelerated to ultrahigh speeds collide with atomic nuclei, releasing energy. Acceleration of electrons can occur due to the powerful electric fields generated by lightning inside strong hurricanes and cyclones. In this case, a positron flux is generated, directed in the opposite direction, to the Earth’s surface. This phenomenon lasts a few milliseconds, which makes it difficult to register it.
Scientists have recorded a flow of positrons, associated with the atmospheric emission of gamma rays, at a height of 2.5 kilometers. It is estimated that antimatter particles could reach a height of 1.5 kilometers, which indicates the possibility of their registration with detectors located in the mountains.