Suns freckles have virtually disappeared!September 3rd, 2008 - 3:31 pm ICT by ANI
London, September 3 (ANI): Scientists have determined that the Suns activity is now at a minimum, with virtually no sunspots marking the face of the star for the most of 2008.
Sunspots are cooler, darker regions caused by the Suns magnetic field ripping through the stars surface.
They vary in number going from a minimum to a maximum and back to a minimum again about every 11 years, the same timescale on which the Suns magnetic poles reverse direction.
Several dozen sunspots can appear every day during periods of maximum solar activity.
But, according to a report in New Scientist, only a small handful of sunspots have occurred during all of 2008 to date, suggesting the Suns activity is now at a minimum.
For a while, it even seemed like August would mark the first time since 1913 that no sunspots were seen for an entire month, according to record-keepers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But, when the final tally was made by the international authority on sunspots, the Solar Influences Data Analysis Center in Brussels, Belgium, one dark blip on 21 and 22 August was large enough to make the count.
Until the spots reappear, researchers say they will not know whether this 11-year solar cycle will bring heavier- or lighter-than-normal activity, or be able to resolve a raging debate about the mechanisms driving solar weather.
The speed at which the next breakout of spots occurs should reveal how active and potentially damaging to Earths satellites and power grids the new solar cycle will be.
According to Leif Svalgaard of Stanford University, the current absence of sunspots does not necessarily foretell an anaemic cycle of solar activity to come.
Instead, sunspot watchers are waiting to see how fast the sunspot count starts to climb once they do reappear.
The quicker they return, the more active the solar weather will be for the following decade.
The big cycles, they start out with a bang. One month, there may be none, the next month they may be all over the place, Svalgaard told New Scientist.
Some forecasters have predicted that a strong wave of sunspots is right around the corner.
According to David Hathaway of NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, As scientists, were anxiously awaiting the return of sunspots because this is really going to help us weed out our different theories. (ANI)
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Tags: brussels belgium, maximum solar activity, national oceanic and atmospheric administration, new scientist, solar cycle, solar influences, solar weather, stanford university, sunspot count, sunspots