back to article Finally, that cruel dust world Mars proves useful: Helping scientists understand Earth's radio-scrambling plasma

NASA’s Mars-orbiting MAVEN spacecraft is helping scientists uncover the longstanding mysteries of how small clouds of concentrated plasma in Earth's atmosphere interfere with our radio signals. High up in our home world's ionosphere, at an altitude of around 100 kilometres (62 miles), atoms are ionized by sunlight. This …

  1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Pint

    A nice simple illustrative video. Cheers. Reminded me of my teenage years experimenting with amateur radio (and homebrew digital packet switching with like-minded obsessives.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You had digital packet switching? In my day when people said "Acorn" they meant VHF triodes, not personal computers.

      We had to make our own fun in those days, and unravelling the mysteries of the ionosphere beats, in my opinion, playing computer games.

  2. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Name change

    Surely the ones on Mars are Permanent Es rather than Sporadic Es?

    Good video, the ESA are producing good ones as well.

  3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Alert

    Don't interupt that last episode of "Single Female Lawyer"

    You don't want Lrrr from the planet Omicron Persei 8 to miss it!

  4. Gobhicks

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is (are?) plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is plural

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is (are?) plural

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.

      I will not expose the ignorance o ^\

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is (are?) plural

      It's an easy mistake to make, he probably thought phenomena was first declension feminine singular, and "phenomenon" is the genitive plural. That's what happens when you haven't done any Greek for years.

      Octopi have been having referenda about this for millennia.

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: "Phenomenon" is singular, "phenomena" is (are?) plural

        Just don't tell the Governors General.

  5. David Shaw

    some of those rare 2-metre Es are recorded here

    https://amunters.home.xs4all.nl/eskiplog.htm (DX robot text feed)

    other planetary anaprop not yet on this list!

  6. Daedalus Silver badge

    Jackbootstrapping

    I think it was New Scientist that, decades ago, highlighted courageous TV DXers who enjoyed getting video of Soviet soldiers goose-stepping their way to wherever they had to go, using reflections from Sporadic-E.

    It should be pointed out that Mars, having next to no magnetic field, is going to have different ionospheric characteristics from Earth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jackbootstrapping

      I think GCHQ got a bit more advanced than that in terms of the data they were extracting.

      I have been told that the Soviet Union was remarkably lax about encrypting communications, though I immediately forgot it as I had signed the OSA.

      1. ricardian

        Re: Jackbootstrapping

        You didn't sign the OSA, Betty Windsor signed the OSB which made it the OSA. You signed a bit of paper affirming that you understood the penalties of infringing the OSA

  7. Blackjack Silver badge

    Is the year2020

    And we are still trying to make Radio signals work better.

    Nothing work with that.

  8. IvyKing

    Thunderstorms

    Best working theory I've for Sporadic E is thunderstorms. The connection between T-stroms and Es was brought up in the VHF column in QST, by someone who correlated the center of a large number of Es contacts with weather reports of a large T-storm. Further evidence is the discovery of "sprites" in the mid-1990's traveling from the tops of thunderstorms and the upper atmosphere.

    1. David Shaw

      Re: Thunderstorms

      @IvyKing

      yes, the Thunderstorm connection is possible - ongoing research work suggests that many thunderstrikes are triggered ('enabled' might be a better choice of word) by incoming galactic + solar protons - as you say, the sprites are particle/energy jets apparently accelerating back out, but there seems to be a lot more work to do on simply thunder - before Sporadic E is added to the scientific questions! The actual enabling of lightning by incoming radiation is not yet quantified.

      My first worry is that Es mirrors probably happen around 100 km up, whilst a lot of the thunderstorn physics is inferred to happen between 10 - 20 km above the ground (the emission spectra of Thunderstorm "intense fluxes of electrons, gamma radiation and secondary neutrons correlated with thunderstorms/lightning" seem to be only 20% as high as Es) from this next 2018 paper. There are however some elements of thunderstorms that appear to be located at 500 km altitude...

      looking on https://scholar.google.co.uk gives quite a lot of reading, I'll just choose one recent paper, for this short reply

      e.g. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10712-018-9469-z

      [ref:Surveys in Geophysics, September 2018, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 861–899 "Lightning Discharges, Cosmic Rays and Climate", Sanjay Kumar, Devendraa Siingh of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology Pune & BHU Varanasi]

      (might be ashamedly paywalled so some 'review' quotes follow from this long and interesting read)

      "Gurevich and Zybin (2001, 2005) proposed the runaway breakdown mechanism operating at a lower threshold voltage (~ 2.16 kV cm−1) which involved the passage of high-energy particles (cosmic rays) through the thundercloud" (it was previously thought that a 23 kV cm−1 electric field was needed to trigger the lightning flash)

      some other keywords from just this paper: particle nucleation & cosmic rays, thunderstorm electrification & cosmic rays, triggering of lightning by cosmic rays, high-energy radiation & thunderstorm ground enhancements (TGEs), terrestrial gamma ray flashes (TGFs), the global electric circuit & climate, atmospheric general circulation lightning & climate, cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), terrestrial electron beams (TEBs), Sprites= transient luminous events (TLEs), gigantic jet (GJ), etc...loads more acronyms available

      The thunderstorms apparently even accelerate muons (downwards) and might have energetic electron interactions. Physicists can measure "intense fluxes of electrons, gamma radiation and secondary neutrons correlated with thunderstorms/lightning", and " the observed spectra were consistent with the simulation results when the source region was considered at 21 km altitude and below and the derived spectrum was inconsistent for sources above 21 km altitudes. This supports the theory that TGFs are produced either inside a thundercloud or just above a thundercloud, and anyway they are not associated with high-altitude discharges (sprites)"

      CERN is experimenting with trigger rates in CLOUDs (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets)

      It would be nice to add Es to this area of climate research, directly or indirectly as lower atmosphere plasmas, and cosmic induced & other ion clouds are mentioned by the paper, some of which get 'scooped-up' by a forming thunderstorm -

      Q: so does Es preceed the series of storms,

      Q: or is Es as a result of the *lots of physics* happening during a typical storm,

      so much is still apparently unknown.

      this above 2018 paper has a nice (simplified) thunderstorm model here

      https://media.springernature.com/lw785/springer-static/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs10712-018-9469-z/MediaObjects/10712_2018_9469_Fig1_HTML.gif

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As it happens

    I am working on a device or rather a few of them that can track TGF events.

    Still have some doubts about the Townsend avalanche theory but its as valid as any other, observation would seem to support the E-fields in even a small Tstorm being in the hundred MeV range at the very least and possibly up to GeV.

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