2013’s solar maximum could be weakest since the dawn of the space age
2013-07-16 0:00

From: io9.com



So this is unexpected. The Sun is currently at the peak of its 11-year solar cycle. It should be awash with sunspots, solar flares, coronal mass ejections and the like. And yet, observations indicate our parent star has actually been pretty quiet this year – so quiet, in fact, this years solar max could go down as the weakest in a century.

"It’s the smallest maximum we’ve seen in the Space Age," said David Hathaway of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center yesterday via teleconference.

Earlier this year, there was speculation that scientists had miscalculated the maximum of the current cycle, though it’s become increasingly apparent that no, this is the maximum, it’s just a quiet one. And that, according to NASA, isn’t necessarily uncommon:

Conventional wisdom holds that solar activity swings back and forth like a simple pendulum. At one end of the cycle, there is a quiet time with few sunspots and flares. At the other end, Solar Max brings high sunspot numbers and solar storms. It’s a regular rhythm that repeats every 11 years.

Reality, however is more complicated. Astronomers have been counting sunspots for centuries, and they have seen that the solar cycle is not perfectly regular. For one thing, the back-and-forth swing in sunspot counts can take anywhere from 10 to 13 years to complete; also, the amplitude of the cycle varies. Some solar maxima are very weak, others very strong.

Back in March, solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center hypothesized that the Sun could be experiencing a lull between two peaks in sunspot activity. A similar "twin peak" solar maximum, Pesnell said, occurred back in 1989, and again in 2001. The first peak of the current solar maximum, he said, reached its zenith in 2011, dipped in 2012, and continued through the beginning of 2013. "I am comfortable in saying that another peak will happen in 2013 and possibly last into 2014," he predicted at the time.

But 2014 is fast approaching, and still no signs of a second spike. Is this a bad thing? Hardly. Disappointing? You might think so, said Hathaway at yesterday’s conference, "but it’s quite the contrary."

SPACE.com gives an example of what Hathaway and his colleauges are taking away from this cycles tamer-than-usual antics:

North-south, or meridional, flows carry magnetic elements from sunspots to the sun’s poles, building up the polar magnetic fields until they eventually flip around the time of the solar maximum, Hathaway explained. Scientists are noticing that the strength of the polar fields when a new cycle begins influences the strength of the cycle, he added. For example, weak polar fields observed in 2008 led to the current weak cycle, while strong polar fields in 1986 spawned a strong Cycle 22.

The polar fields have been slowly reversing at this maximum, Hathaway said, suggesting that they are not going get much stronger during Cycle 24. This also sets the stage for an even smaller maximum during Cycle 25, scientists believe.

"We’re seeing fields that suggest the next sun cycle will be even weaker than this one," Hathaway said.

[...]

Read the full article at: io9.com





Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Turkey's Erdogan threatened to flood Europe with migrants: Greek website
2016-02-09 23:04
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened in November to flood Europe with migrants if European Union leaders did not offer him a better deal to help manage the Middle East refugee crisis, a Greek news website said on Monday. Publishing what it said were minutes of a tense meeting last November, the euro2day.gr financial news website revealed deep mutual irritation and distrust ...
Will Denmark Be The First Islamic Nation In Europe?
2016-02-09 23:44
Daily headlines prove that Europe is bursting at the seams with Islamists attempting to establish Sharia law and homegrown terror plots. France is ablaze with radicals, ISIS threatens they will send Spain back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, and Britain is much too concerned with appeasing Muslims that they are doing away with their own citizens’ free speech. The ...
'Hamilton' musical: All American founders non-White, but evil King George. I hate musicals!
2016-02-09 22:43
‘Hamilton’, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, is being performed on Broadway. You know it’s going to have political undertones, when you read that the first act is titled: “Immigrants : We get the job done!” In addition to Alexander Hamilton, Miranda’s musical also casts Aaron Burr, George Washington, James Madison, John Laurens, Marquis Gilbert ...
Ted Nugent Posts "Anti-Semitic" Facebook Message About Gun Control
2016-02-09 22:53
Rock musician Ted Nugent posted a message about “who is really behind gun control” on Facebook that the Anti-Defamation League slammed as "anti-Semitic". More: ADL claims 26% of all world population is “anti-semitic” The ADL and domestic spying: Roy Bullock case revisited "Antisemitism on rise across Europe in worst times since the Nazis" says "expert" to the Guardian In the post, Nugent shares a ...
Illegal immigrant is arrested over murder of American nanny in Austria after she took him in to stop him being deported - and is revealed to have raped underage girl
2016-02-09 22:20
An illegal immigrant has been arrested over the murder of an American nanny who had given him shelter at her Vienna apartment. The 24-year-old Gambian had been wanted by police since the death of Lauren Mann, 25, from Grand Junction, Colorado last month. He was arrested on Thursday in Bern, Switzerland, at an asylum center there after his mobile phone use was ...
More News »