- Posted March 9, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Light Years: Your view of space and stars
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The calm before the solar storm? NASA warns ‘something unexpected is happening on the Sun’
The year 2013 was supposed to be the year of the solar maximum, but the sun has grown strangely quiet.
March 9, 2013 – SPACE - ‘Something unexpected’ is happening on the Sun, NASA has warned. This year was supposed to be the year of ‘solar maximum,’ the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. But as the pictures (below) reveals, solar activity is relatively low. ‘Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent,’ the space agency says. The image below shows the Earth-facing surface of the Sun on February 28, 2013, as observed by the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. It observed just a few small sunspots on an otherwise clean face, which is usually riddled with many spots during peak solar activity. Experts have been baffled by the apparent lack of activity – with many wondering if NASA simply got it wrong. However, solar physicist Dean Pesnell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center believes he has a different explanation. ‘This is solar maximum,’ he says. “But it looks different from what we expected because it is double-peaked. The last two solar maxima, around 1989 and 2001, had not one but two peaks.’ Solar activity went up, dipped, then rose again, performing a mini-cycle that lasted about two years, he said.