Credit: Tsuchiya, H. et al.; Riken


Bursts of Gamma rays occur quite frequently. Cosmic Gamma ray bursts (or GRBs) are detected once every few days, and must occur much more frequently. Now scientists have discovered bursts of Gamma rays which occur about 3 million times per day (or about 35 times a second). These bursts are associated with thunderstorms. Using detectors very similar to those on the Suzaku observatory, scientists detected long-lasting (about 1 minute) bursts of Gamma rays produced by electrons moving near the speed of light spiralling around the intense electrical fields produced by thunderstorms. Oddly, the Gamma ray burst seen in the thunderstorm occurred about a minute before the lightning flash, meaning that perhaps the flash of Gamma rays could be used to indicate that a lightning strike is about to happen. But these Gamma ray bursts are believed to be highly beamed and can only be seen if the detector is pointed in just the right direction - just like "real" cosmic GRBs.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:26:05 EDT