The Sun Loses its Spots

Jul 24, 2007
The Sun Loses its Spots
The latest image of the Sun from SOHO. Credit: NASA/ESA.

While sidewalks crackle in the summer heat, NASA scientists are keeping a close eye on the sun. It is almost spotless, a sign that the Sun may have reached solar minimum. Scientists are now watching for the first spot of the new solar cycle to appear.

The 11 year long solar cycle is marked by two extremes, solar minimum and solar maximum. Solar minimum is the period of least solar activity in the solar cycle of the sun. During this time sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes, and often does not occur for days at a time.

When spots begin to appear on the sun once again, scientists know that the sun is heading into a new season of extreme solar activity. At the cycle's peak, solar maximum, the sun is continually peppered with spots, solar flares erupt, and the sun hurls billion-ton clouds of electrified gas into space.

Solar maximum is often compared to the hurricane season here on Earth. Violent solar events, like flares and coronal mass ejections, are the hurricanes of space weather. These solar storms are capable of wreaking havoc with satellites, power grids, and radio communication, including the Global Positioning System.

NOAA's Space Environment Center, Boulder CO, forecasts that the next solar cycle should begin in March 2008 and should peak in late 2011 or mid 2012.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Planck: Gravitational waves remain elusive

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Earth's moon may not be critical to life

Jan 27, 2015

The Moon has long been viewed as a crucial component in creating an environment suitable for the evolution of complex life on Earth, but a number of scientific results in recent years have shown that perhaps our ...

Getting to know Rosetta's comet

Jan 23, 2015

Rosetta is revealing its host comet as having a remarkable array of surface features and with many processes contributing to its activity, painting a complex picture of its evolution.

Rosetta data reveals more surprises about comet 67P

Jan 22, 2015

As the Rosetta spacecraft orbits comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, an international team of scientists have discovered that the comet's atmosphere, or coma, is much less homogenous than expected and comet ...

How to make solar energy systems more widespread

Jan 14, 2015

Retrofitting existing buildings with adequate cutting-edge technologies is thought to guarantees spectacular energy savings, by about 50%. The objective of the EU funded project BRICKER is precisely to demonstrate such possibility. ...

Recommended for you

Planck: Gravitational waves remain elusive

Jan 30, 2015

Despite earlier reports of a possible detection, a joint analysis of data from ESA's Planck satellite and the ground-based BICEP2 and Keck Array experiments has found no conclusive evidence of primordial ...

What's happening in the universe right now?

Jan 30, 2015

There are some topics that get a little frustrating in their pedantry, but can really draw attention to the grand scope and mechanics in our Universe. This is definitely one of them.

The tell-tale signs of a galactic merger

Jan 29, 2015

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured this striking view of spiral galaxy NGC 7714. This galaxy has drifted too close to another nearby galaxy and the dramatic interaction has twisted its spiral ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.