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Astronomers baffled by ‘Quiet Sun’


21 Apr 09 - With no sunspots and very few solar flares, our nearest star is the dimmest it has been for nearly a century.

The Sun normally undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity, moving from a tumultuous boiling atmosphere that spits out flares and planet-sized chunks of super-hot gas to a relatively a calmer period and then back up again.

But last year, instead of firing back up after a quiet spell as it “should” have, it instead hit a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.

"There's no sign of us coming out of it yet," she told BBC News.

“There are scientific papers coming out suggesting that we'll be going into a normal period of activity soon,” Hara pointed out. “Others are suggesting we'll be going into another minimum period."

In the mid-17th Century, a quiet spell - known as the Maunder Minimum - lasted 70 years, and led to a "mini ice age".

          Millions of people died of starvation during that “mini ice age.”
          The rains lasted 5 weeks longer in the spring, which delayed planting,
          which delayed harvesting . . . and then came winter.

This has resulted in some people suggesting that a similar cooling might offset the impact of climate change.

According to Prof Mike Lockwood of Southampton University, this view is too simplistic.

"What we are seeing is consistent with a global temperature rise, not that the Sun is coming to our aid," said Lockwood.

          Huh? Let’s see if I understand this. The last time this happened
          (the Maunder Minimum), it led to a mini ice age. But this time it’s
          consistent with global warming?  

See entire article by Pallab Ghosh
Thanks to David Christian, Kathleen Stokes, Pojedinec, E. Philipp,
Lance Stinson, Lance Hamilton, Marc Morano and Icewoman for this link





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