Stories tagged sun spots

Jun
29
2008

The Sun in more active times: Sunspot activity, which is linked to weather and other phenomena on Earth, peaked in 2001. But for the last two years there’s been almost nothing.
The Sun in more active times: Sunspot activity, which is linked to weather and other phenomena on Earth, peaked in 2001. But for the last two years there’s been almost nothing.Courtesy NASA

Occasionally, intense magnetic activity in the Sun creates sunspots, dark regions on the surface of the Sun. Sunspot activity rises and falls roughly every 11 years – the last maximum was in 2001, and activity slowly fell off to zero by 2006.

And since then…almost nothing. Scientists had expected sunspot activity to start increasing by now, but it hasn’t. No one knows why, or when the cycle will pick up again.

Why is this important?

Sunspots, created by intense magnetic activity, are associated with solar flares, enormous streams of high-energy particles sent shooting out into the Solar System. These play havoc with satellites and other electronic communication. So, no sunspots in this case would be a good thing.

Solar flares also create the beautiful northern and southern lights. In this case, no sunspots is a bad thing.

Perhaps most important, sunspots seem to be an indicator of solar activity. And low activity can mean lower temperatures here on Earth. The Sun once went 50 years without producing any spots – from 1650 to 1700 – and these years were some of the coldest in recorded history. Today they are known as the little Ice Age.

Are we on the brink of a new Ice Age? It’s wayyyy to early to tell. But scientists are keeping an eye on the Sun, to see if it reveals any clues.

Aug
10
2006

Magnetosphere: Solar particles interact with magnetosphere. NASA graphic via wikipedia
Magnetosphere: Solar particles interact with magnetosphere. NASA graphic via wikipedia

SUNSPOT 904

A large and beautiful new sunspot is emerging from the sun's eastern limb: image. So far it poses no threat for Earth-directed solar flares, but this could change. The spot is growing fast and turning toward Earth. Stay tuned for updates.

11 year sun spot cyle

We are currently at the lowest activity of the 11 year sunspot cycle. Sun spots, when facing Earth can send solar flares toward Earth. The Earth's magnetosphere shields us from these high energy particles but astronauts in space need to be concerned.

James Van Allen dies at 91

I think it is fitting to mention that James Van Allen died yesterday Aug 9, 2006 He discovered of the Van Allen radiation belts, which I associate with the Nothern lights, which come from sun spot flares.