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Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Solar Minimum is Here

Solar CycleImage Credit NASA
Well, its official, the Solar Cycle Minimum is here. For all of February the Sun was virtually a blank disk. Experts predict that most of 2006 will be similar (although Solar Minimum might end after only a few months). This means solar activity (and hence aurora) will be quite low (but not necessarily absent). After the minimum Sunspot numbers an solar activity will begin to climb. How high will it go this time? NASA scientists, using new models of the solar magnetic field, have estimated that the coming cycle (which will peak in either 2011 or 2012) will be 50% stronger than the last cycle. Now this sort of prediction is still rather uncertain, but if so we have a better chance of amazing aurora in the coming years (and more chance of continent wide blackouts and satellite failures too). Some amazing images and videos are here which goes with the NASA story. See also this shorter version of the story.

Ian, looks like NASA's solar minimum prediction was off by a few years. Don't expect the next solar cycle to be a big one ... things are more likely to cool than heat up as a result.
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