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The Curious Case of the Missing Sunspots
May 20, 2009 4:48 AM   Subscribe

Solar activity normally follows an 11-year cycle. The new cycle was originally predicted to start in early 2008, but despite a few sunspots appearing last year, the Sun still features a remarkable lack of activity - the deepest minimum since 1913. However, NASA's STEREO mission has seen indications that activity is increasing again, in the form of a coronal mass ejection (video [.mov, 3.3 Mb]), with an accompanying radio burst.

[Previously]
posted by Electric Dragon (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
remarkable lack of activity

After 4 billion years of doing the same thing, it's easy to lose one's passion. Married couples will know what I mean - amirite?

But seriously, the Sun needs to reconnect with its roots. Remind itself what excited it about nuclear fusion in the first place.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:30 AM on May 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


despite a few sunspots appearing last year, the Sun still features a remarkable lack of activity - the deepest minimum since 1913.

AAAAAAAHHH...WE'RE ALL GONNA LIVE!!!!
posted by DU at 5:38 AM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine accurate data even goes back much further than 1913.
posted by smackfu at 5:48 AM on May 20, 2009


Well, there goes your centimeter-level accuracy with your kinematic GPS surveys. Game Over!
posted by NoMich at 5:50 AM on May 20, 2009


I can't imagine accurate data even goes back much further than 1913.

How about 1600?
posted by odinsdream at 5:55 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


*Buddy Cole voice*

Mmm, coronal mass ejection?

Sounds sexy!

*Sips on martini, ashes cigarette*
posted by chillmost at 5:57 AM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Some friends of mine work on this stuff wrt: cell phone interference. At least someone is happy about interference.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:03 AM on May 20, 2009


Coronal spewage, eh? Shit's gonna get all wambly-wombly.
posted by PuppyCat at 6:10 AM on May 20, 2009


In other news, now would be the time for ham radio DX'ing.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:11 AM on May 20, 2009


I blame global warming.

Wait…
posted by oaf at 7:38 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


My theory: it's been saving up for a major ejection. Prepare to be licked by nuclear fire. Ra!
posted by roue at 8:02 AM on May 20, 2009


awww...i was hoping for another maunder minimum to counteract the greenhouse effect so we dont have another one of these...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2009


I wish it would get it's groove on. All I want to do is go to Finland and see the northern lights.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:16 PM on May 20, 2009


Damn. I'd better check my lines in Quebec.
posted by dhartung at 3:30 PM on May 20, 2009


I can't imagine accurate data even goes back much further than 1913.

In fact, via a number of proxies for solar activity, there's accurate data going back a long time. Like, many thousands of years long. Ice cores provide one such measure, but there are many others.

In fact, such ancient data have been used to establish a link between solar activity and water levels in the Nile going back to about the year 622. (Summary Article)

So, in fact, we can say pretty accurately that while this is definitely the deepest minimum since the 1913 minimum, there have been many cases when the sunspot number was low and stayed low for much longer. (Like the Maunder Minimum sexyrobot mentioned.)

If anybody is really interested, there's lots of data and graphics here.
posted by dseaton at 5:34 PM on May 20, 2009


funny thing is, i saw this pic of the shuttle passing in front of the sun the other day and thought 'wow, there really aren't any spots at all on that thing' and remembered hearing that this cycle was late almost a year ago. so i decided to check out that new wolfram alpha thing to see what i could find out about sunspots...seemed like just the thing...i gave me a really nice dictionary definiton of 'sunspot' no matter what keywords i added...thank god for google. yeah, the sun is a big weird ball of h-bombs. hope it doesn't asplode.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:15 PM on May 20, 2009


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