So just for the laughs and to cheer everyone up, I report of the following which was reported on the website
of the prestigious Penn State:
Atmospheric sprites have been known for nearly a century, but their origins were a mystery. Now, a team of researchers has evidence that sprites form at plasma irregularities and may be useful in remote sensing of the lower ionosphere.
"We are trying to understand the origins of this phenomenon," said Victor Pasko, professor of electrical engineering, Penn State. "We would like to know how sprites are initiated and how they develop."
Well seems promising, right? Victor displays some good intentions in trying to understand things. And what is
wonderful here is that he and his team found evidence of the initiation an development of sprites. That seems
wonderfullly interesting news. The article continues with some previous observations of sprites, and telling us
how they did their research:
Recent modeling studies show that plasma irregularities in the ionosphere are a necessary condition for the initiation of sprite streamers, but no solid proof of those irregularities existed.
The researchers studied video observations of sprites, developed a model of how sprites evolve and disappear, and tested the model to see if they could recreate sprite-forming conditions. They report their results today (May 7) in Nature Communications.
Brilliant insights led to idea that a certain instability or irregularity must lead to discharging expressed as the
sprite phenomenon. So it was time to get out the models and do some real science:
Careful examination of videos of sprites forming showed that their downward hanging filaments form much more rapidly than in the horizontal spread, leading the researchers to suggest that localized plasma irregularities cause the streamers to propagate.
But first having watched the videos some more, they change the necessity of the irregularities, it's not initiatory
but they help in propagation. Seems to me as describing a different function, but what does that matter......
So back to modelling:
The researchers used a two-dimensional cylindrical symmetric plasma fluid model, a mathematical model of the ionization movements in the sprite, to study sprite dynamics. They then used the model to recreate optical sprite creation. From this recreation, the researchers determined where the sprite streamers originated, and they could estimate the size of the plasma irregularity.
Well moving from videos to actual real sprites in the models, it seems they found their irregularities there....in the models. Though it does seem they go back to the irregularities as initiatory cause of sprites, although I'm confused now if this pertains to the mathematical model or the stuff that happens in the atmosphere. At least they saw computer streamers, and make determinations and estimations from them. Seems reasonable, for sure they will relate them to the stuff that happens in the air. But first back to real science:
Further analysis suggested some potential causes of these plasma irregularities. The most obvious seems to be the existence in that area of a previous sprite. For the sprites examined, there were no previous sprites in that area that occurred close enough in time, unless there were long-lasting irregularities. However, the researchers are unsure how such long-lasting events could occur.
Wait wait wait, so there is a cause that initiates sprites, they said it were plasma instabilities/irregularities, and
after deep analysis they found one potentially obvious cause for generating irregularities, or is a obviously potential cause (?), and this cause is.....another sprite that previously was in the same area. But as this has never been observed with the actual stuff in the atmosphere, the research team will hang on to this possibility, because it is so logically obvious.
Another possible source for the irregularities is meteor events. The D region of the ionosphere is in the upper part of the atmosphere where most meteors can exist, because once they enter the denser, lower atmosphere, they burn up due to atmospheric friction.
So not satisfied with logical obviousness they propose another cause of irregularities... meteors. Because as everyone knows there are few options left after the chicken/egg solution above and those are big bangs, black holes, and collisions of things. And as big bangs and black holes are options of last resort, collisions of stuff was the choice of the day. Meteors colliding with the atmosphere, that ought to do the trick. Why? Because they burn up. It just hasn't been detected or observed yet in relation to initiating irregularities that initiate sprites.
"This technique can be used for remote sensing in the ionosphere as well," said Pasko. "Using high speed videos and fluid models we may be able to see other things that go on in the ionosphere and better understand the effects of various natural phenomena on very low frequency radio communications."
So Viktor is is proposing to give them some more time watching videos and fluid models to see things in the ionosphere. I think it is a good proposal, I only would advise some magic mushrooms, because I think Viktor and his team will see much much more in their fluid models.
One cop out from my side, I haven't yet read the official published article. So it is probable I totally got the wrong idea from this article authored by A'ndrea Elyse Messer., the surname of whom perhaps might not bode well.