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E. Fascinating Observations of Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes

Narrator: This is Science Today. Satellite observations have revealed that the Earth's upper atmosphere an area just above major thunderstorms can produce energies as high as gamma rays emitted from black holes or neutron stars. David Smith, an assistant professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says these observations of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes were fascinating.

Smith: It surprises everyone, I think, that you have a mechanism in a place as benign as the Earth's atmosphere that is capable of accelerating electrons to 99.99 percent of the speed of light, which is what it takes.

Narrator: Smith says these findings are an indication that these very high-energy phenomena can really happen anywhere, including the atmosphere of other planets.

Smith: And depending on what we learn about lightning here on Earth, it may be that where there's lightning, there's gamma ray flashes. So, one of the other things I'd be very excited to do is put a gamma ray detector in orbit around some of these other plants the next time we go there.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.