Signature of Antimatter Detected in Lightning

Fermi telescope finds evidence that positrons, not just electrons, are in storms on Earth.

Designed to scan the heavens thousands to billions of light-years beyond the solar system, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has now recorded some more down-to-Earth signals. During its first 14 months of operation, the flying observatory has detected 17 gamma-ray flashes associated with terrestrial lightning storms.

The flashes occurred just before, during and immediately after lightning strikes, as tracked by the World Wide Lightning Location Network.

During two recent lightning storms, Fermi recorded gamma-ray emissions of a particular energy that could only have been produced by the decay of energetic positrons, the antimatter equivalent of electrons. The observations are the first of their kind for lightning storms. Michael Briggs of the University of Alabama in Huntsville announced the puzzling findings November 5 at the 2009 Fermi Symposium.

Cloud Lightning

Lucky strike: San Francisco photographer captures dramatic lightning on early morning drive

If woken by a tumultuous storm outside, most of us will wisely pull the covers over our heads and try to go back to sleep. For one plucky photographer though, it was the chance to dash outside and capture some truly electric images.

Frank Fennema, 56 from California made the trip from his home in Tiburon, north of San Francisco, down to the Golden Gate Bridge.

© Frank Fennemma


Thunderstorm on Saturn is a record-buster

© Unknown
A tempest that erupted on Saturn in January has become the Solar System's longest continuously observed lightning storm, astronomers reported on Tuesday.

The storm broke out in "Storm Alley," a region 35 degrees south of the ringed giant's equator, researchers told the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, near Berlin.

Thunderstorms there can be as big as 3,000 kilometers (nearly 2,000 miles) across. The powerful event was spotted by the US space probe Cassini, using an instrument that can detect radiowaves emitted by lightning discharge.

"The reason why we see lightning in this peculiar location is not completely clear," said Georg Fischer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in a press release.

Cloud Lightning

Six killed by lightning in China

© Unknown
Six farmers were killed in eastern China Sunday when the hut they were sheltering in during a storm was struck by lightning, state media reported.

Another farmer in the hut was injured and taken to hospital, the Xinhua news agency quoted local officials in Anhui province as saying.

The accident happened during a heavy rainstorm in the village of Qiaodong, around 650 kilometres (400 miles) northwest of Shanghai, Xinhua quoted officials from the county government as saying.

Cloud Lightning

Upwards lightning caught on film

Scientists have photographed "upwards lightning", a rarely-seen phenomenon where electricity from storms flows into the upper atmosphere.

upwards lightning
Gigantic jets can travel more than 60km (40 miles) into the ionosphere
During last year's Tropical Storm Cristobal, lightning reached more than 60km (40 miles) up.

Also known as "gigantic jets", these events are just as powerful as cloud-to-ground lightning bolts.

The US team of researchers also took radio measurements of the electrical charge.

Cloud Lightning

Austria hit by more bad weather

Austria flood
© FF PredingParts of Salzburg and Upper and Lower Austria were hit by heavy rain, hail and winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour (Mon/Tues).
Parts of Salzburg and Upper and Lower Austria were hit by heavy rain, hail and winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour as more bad weather battered Austria last night (Mon/Tues).

In Lower Austria alone 1,500 firemen were called out.

Rescuers helped an 84-year-old woman in Eggenburg, Lower Austria who had become disoriented in the rain and couldn't find her way back home as well as an Italian family cycling along the Danube River near Wallsee, Lower Austria who had lost their way in the rain.

High wind in Sitzenberg in Tulln district in Lower Austria blew 150 square metres of metal off the framework of a building under construction while lightning in Zwettl district in Lower Austria set two roofs on fire and started a forest fire nearby. It also started a blaze at an apartment in Brand and a set barn on fire in Schöngraben.

A mudslide in Gosau, Upper Austria hit 300 metres of a local highway, carrying some parked cars away and a pregnant woman, 31, was injured when a carriage she was riding in was overturned by a gust of wind in Upper Austria.

Weathermen have said rain will ease off tonight and tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon, Thursday and Friday will be mostly sunny before rain returns over the weekend.

Salzburg's northern Flachgau had already been hit by more heavy thunderstorms on Sunday less than two weeks after massive hail storms had left a trail of destruction in the area.

Cloud Lightning

Lightning Kills 10, Injures 12 in Eastern India

© Wiki
Ten people were killed and 12 injured when lightning struck a house during a funeral ceremony in western India, the Calcutta Telegraph said on Wednesday.

The tragedy occurred on Tuesday evening in the courtyard of a house as some 35 people sat down to eat in Atkulla village, around 135 km (83 miles) from Kolkata (Calcutta).

An eyewitness, Subodh Pramanik, was cited by the paper as saying: "I saw an electric flash roll across the courtyard and I froze."

Health officials said that the force of the single bolt killed eight people instantly. "One died in hospital. Two of the injured have suffered 80% burns and their condition is critical," Dilip Kumar Jha told the paper.


Lightning strikes zap Invercargill

A cluster of lightning strikes struck Invercargill yesterday, blowing phone jacks out of walls, damaging electrical equipment and cutting electricity in part of the city.

Wet and wild weather that began in the early hours of yesterday morning culminated in a series of lightning strikes in north Invercargill about 9am.

Several houses in Talbot St were struck by bolts, described by one resident as a "fireball".

Comment: Yesterday we carried this report from the Netherlands. Today, halfway around the globe, we have another report of a fireball hitting homes in New Zealand. In both cases, plugs and sockets were blown out of their fixtures in the walls.



Ball lightning hits 100 homes

At least 100 homes in one district of the town of Soesterberg were hit by ball lightning on Sunday morning, the AD reports.

The lightning, a rare atmospheric phenomenon, wrecked hundreds of televisions, computers, telephones and central heating systems, the paper says. In some households, flames came out of electronic equipment. In others, electric sockets sprang off the wall.

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UK deluged by rainstorms, with foul conditions set to continue until early August

Stormy UK summer 2009
© unknownLightning streaks through a bleak grey sky yesterday - as Britain is drenched in summer downpours.
Lightning streaks through a bleak grey sky yesterday - as Britain is drenched in summer downpours.

And the foul conditions are set to continue until early next month, the Met Office warns.

In Cornwall, homes and businesses were left flooded in Lostwithiel, Par and St Blazey. Yachts capsized in Newquay and there was a sevenvehicle smash on the A30 on Bodmin Moor.

Newcastle was braced for two-and-a-half inches of rain yesterday while firefighters across the North East were put on flood alert. North Yorks, Northants, Beds, Cambs, Wilts, Oxford and Essex were also hit by thunderstorms.

The Met Office's Barry Gromett warned it will be wet for another couple of weeks at least.