Sunspots have occurred less frequently during the past two years than at any other period for nearly a century. “This is solar behavior we haven't seen in living memory,” according to David Hathaway, physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Sunspots and other clues indicate that the sun's magnetic activity is diminishing, and that the sun may even be shrinking, says New Scientist magazine. Together the results hint that something profound is happening inside the sun.
When sunspot numbers drop at the end of their typical 11-year cycle, solar storms die down. This “solar minimum” doesn't last long. Within a year, the spots and storms begin to build towards a new crescendo, the next solar maximum.
What’s special about this latest dip is that the sun is having trouble starting the next solar cycle. The sun began to calm down in late 2007, so no one expected many sunspots in 2008. But computer models predicted that when the spots did return, they would do so in force. This hasn’t happened.
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