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Last by Kelly Oakes on Mar 11, 2011, 12:40pm
It may look like a static yellow ball from here, but in reality the Sun is alive with activity. Right now it is becoming more active each day as we get closer to the next solar maximum, which is expected to peak in July 2013
. However, a couple of years ago it was quieter than it had been for nearly a century. It had very few sunspots and radiated very little energy. This variation is normal — the Sun goes through regular cycles where its activity and number of sunspots go up and then down again. What was unusual was the depth of this solar minimum.Dibyendu Nandy
, from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in West Bengal, and colleagues Andres Munoz-Jaramillo
and Petrus Martens
, from Montana State University, think they might have found the reason for this almost unprecedented solar calm.
Each solar cycle lasts roughly 11 years. After this time, its magnetic field flips over. After two cycles the magnetic field has flipped twice and it ends up back where it started. During these cycles the amo . . . More