High-energy electron beams launched into space by thunderstorms
Dwyer, Joseph R.
Grefenstette, Brian W.
Smith, David M.
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Using CGRO/BATSE data, a possible new source of high-energy electrons and positrons in the earth's inner magnetosphere is presented. These particles are generated within the upper atmosphere by Compton scattering and pair-production of gamma-rays originating from near the tropopause as Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs). Once created, these energetic electrons and positrons follow the geomagnetic field into the inner magnetosphere where they can be detected in low-earth orbit, either near the TGF magnetic foot point or at the conjugate point several thousand kilometers away. Approximately 17% of CGRO/BATSE events previously identified as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes are, in fact, such electrons and positrons. With energies extending above 30 MeV, this previously unidentified population contains some of the most energetic particles accelerated in the near-earth environment.