When the Sun Gets Violent, It Shoots Antimatter at the Earth

When it casts a solar flare, the Sun also launches antimatter

The Earth hangs some 93 million miles from the Sun, with the seemingly empty void of space as a backdrop. But space, though vast, is hardly empty. The Earth is bathed in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that emanates from our star. Once in a while, when the Sun gets uppity, a gigantic solar flare will plow through the solar wind and slam into the Earth. The collision sends a torrent of charged particles arcing along the Earth’s magnetic field and triggers beautiful auroral displays.

But the northern lights aren’t the only thing solar flares bring to the Earth

New observations, says Space, show that solar storms produce a spout of antimatter.

Solar flares were predicted to release some antimatter particles among the deluge of charged particles spat out during these eruptions. But this is the first time researchers have observed antimatter coming from the sun.

Antimatter particles have the same mass and other characteristics as their regular-matter counterparts, but they have opposite charge. When the universe was born about 13.8 billion years ago in the Big Bang, there was probably about as much matter as antimatter, scientists think. Somehow, collisions with matter destroyed most of the antimatter (when matter and antimatter meet, they annihilate), leaving a slight surplus of matter, which became the planets, stars and galaxies in our universe.

The Sun isn’t the only thing spouting antimatter, though. A weird kind of lightning here on Earth, called Dark Lightning, sends a shock of antimatter flying into space.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Dark Lightning Is Just One of the Crazy Types of Lightning You’ve Never Heard Of
What Damage Could Be Caused by a Massive Solar Storm?