Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 17:21 EDT

Latest Solar cycle Stories

2008-11-07 12:55:00

After two-plus years of few sunspots, even fewer solar flares, and a generally eerie calm, the sun is finally showing signs of life. "I think solar minimum is behind us," says sunspot forecaster David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. His statement is prompted by an October flurry of sunspots. "Last month we counted five sunspot groups," he says. That may not sound like much, but in a year with record-low numbers of sunspots and long stretches of utter spotlessness, five is...

2008-10-02 15:25:00

Scientists using NASA's RHESSI spacecraft have measured the roundness of the sun with unprecedented precision. They find that it is not a perfect sphere. During years of high solar activity the sun develops a thin "cantaloupe skin" that significantly increases its apparent oblateness: the sun's equatorial radius becomes slightly larger than its polar radius. Their results appear the Oct. 2nd edition of Science Express. "The sun is the biggest and therefore smoothest object in the solar...

2008-10-01 06:50:00

Astronomers who count sunspots have announced that 2008 is now the "blankest year" of the Space Age. As of Sept. 27, 2008, the sun had been blank, i.e., had no visible sunspots, on 200 days of the year. To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go back to 1954, three years before the launch of Sputnik, when the sun was blank 241 times. "Sunspot counts are at a 50-year low," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. "We're experiencing a deep minimum...

2008-09-23 15:05:00

Data from the Ulysses spacecraft, a joint NASA-European Space Agency mission, show the sun has reduced its output of solar wind to the lowest levels since accurate readings became available. The sun's current state could reduce the natural shielding that envelops our solar system. "The sun's million mile-per-hour solar wind inflates a protective bubble, or heliosphere, around the solar system. It influences how things work here on Earth and even out at the boundary of our solar system where...

2008-09-04 09:10:00

An unusual absence of sunspots has many experts and record-keepers baffled as they wait to see how much time it takes for them to return to the star's surface. Sunspots are the result of the Sun's magnetic field tearing "Ëœholes' into its surface. Meteorologists use the arrival and disappearance of sunspots to gauge how active solar cycles will be. When the sun is more active, several sunspots can appear on a daily basis. However, very few have been spotted in 2008. Experts had...

2008-07-12 17:50:00

Stop the presses! The sun is behaving normally. So says NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. "There have been some reports lately that Solar Minimum is lasting longer than it should. That's not true. The ongoing lull in sunspot number is well within historic norms for the solar cycle." This report, that there's nothing to report, is newsworthy because of a growing buzz in lay and academic circles that something is wrong with the sun. Sun Goes Longer Than Normal Without Producing Sunspots...

2008-06-11 08:20:00

For more than 400 years, astronomers have studied the sun from afar. Now NASA has decided to go there. "We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time," says program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters. "This is an unexplored region of the solar system and the possibilities for discovery are off the charts." The name of the mission is Solar Probe+ (pronounced "Solar Probe plus"). It's a heat-resistant spacecraft designed to plunge deep into the sun's atmosphere...

2008-05-19 06:00:00

Many solar scientists expected the new sunspot cycle to be a whopper, a prolonged solar tantrum that could fry satellites and raise hell with earthly communications, the power grid and modern electronics. But there's scant proof Sunspot Cycle 24 is even here, let alone the debut of big trouble. So far there have been just a couple minor zits on the face of the sun to suggest the old cycle is over and the new one is coming. The roughly 11-year cycle of sunspot activity should have bottomed...

2008-05-08 00:20:00

The sun has powered almost everything on Earth since life began, including its climate. The sun also delivers an annual and seasonal impact, changing the character of each hemisphere as Earth's orientation shifts through the year. Since the Industrial Revolution, however, new forces have begun to exert significant influence on Earth's climate. "For the last 20 to 30 years, we believe greenhouse gases have been the dominant influence on recent climate change," said Robert Cahalan,...

2008-03-30 09:45:00

Solar Cycle 23, how can we miss you if you won't go away? Barely three months after forecasters announced the beginning of new Solar Cycle 24, old Solar Cycle 23 has returned. (Actually, it never left. Read on.) "This week, three big sunspots appeared and they are all old cycle spots," says NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. "We know this because of their magnetic polarity." On March 28th the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) made this magnetic map of the sun: It shows the north and...

Latest Solar cycle Reference Libraries

How Solar Cycles Impact Our Weather Here On Earth
2013-01-13 09:10:34

Solar cycles: what are they and why should we care about them? Solar cycles are made up of what are known as solar minimums (min) and solar maximums (max). We refer to a solar min at the time when the sun is not active with many sunspots, while a solar max is just the opposite when we see a large increase in sunspot activity. So how long do solar cycles last? Typically they run on what is known as an 11 year cycle from the max to the min and then start over again anew. As of 2012 we...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Solar Maximum -- The Sun, a roiling ball of plasma, occupies its place in space approximately 93 million miles from Earth. Though it seems simple to inhabitants of this planet -- the Sun shines, giving light and heat -- the processes occurring in the Sun are so complex that many scientists devote their careers to just one aspect of solar activity. Changes in the activity of the Sun particularly engage solar scientists. Whether fluctuations in the solar magnetic field, expulsions of...

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