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Geophysical Research Letters


Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs) are brief pulses of energetic radiation observed in low-earth orbit. They are associated with thunderstorms and lightning and have been observed both as gamma-ray and electron flashes depending on the position of the spacecraft with respect to the source. While gamma-ray TGFs are detected as short pulses lasting less than 1 ms, most TGFs seen by the Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) with durations greater than 1 ms are, instead, the result of electrons traveling from the sources along geomagnetic field lines. We perform spectral analysis of the three brightest electron TGFs detected by GBM and discover strong 511 keV positron annihilation lines, demonstrating that these electron TGFs also contain substantial positron components. This shows that pair production occurs in conjunction with some terrestrial lightning and that most likely all TGFs are injecting electron-positron beams into the near Earth environment.



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