Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sun continues to be mysteriously calm

Over the last 12 months, the sun has been unusually calm. The solar wind is down, sunspots are practically non-existent and there's not much happening up there as far as solar flares and eruptions. And now, "just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower." (NASA)

2008 ended as the slowest year for sunspot activity -- 266 days (73 percent) without a spot) since 1913. And so far, 2009 has been worse -- 78 days (87 percent) without a spot up until March 31st.

Who cares? There are some good and bad reasons effects of low solar activity. On the plus side, there are fewer geomagnetic storms interfering with communications. Also,
the atmosphere is a bit thinner due to solar inactivity, this means less atmospheric drag on satellites, which means they last longer.

On the negative side, a thinner atmosphere means more space junk (which
we've heard quite a bit about this year), less (beautiful, awe-inspiring) Aurora Borealis and more cosmic rays (solar wind usually repels a lot of these, which can be hazardous for astronauts).

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.