Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

The Sun's in a Slump

ImaGeo iconImaGeoBy Tom YulsmanMarch 6, 2013 10:27 PM
Sun-today-3613.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

An image of the sun captured today (March 6, 2013) by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. (Image: http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/) The sun was supposed to be full of vim and vigor right now, flaring and throwing off massive ejections of matter and radiation as it headed toward a peak of solar activity in May. But according to NASA, it's in an unexpected slump. The image of the sun above shows what the sun looks like today, as seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Different colors highlight different aspects of the sun's corona, including solar flares, mass ejections, and coronal loops — plasma that leaps off the surface and follows magnetic field lines in gigantic arcs. The image may suggest that the sun is restless. But in reality, solar activity has been lower than predicted lately. Sunspot numbers have been well below what they were in 2011, and the strong solar flares that were expected have been relatively infrequent. Have forecasters flubbed it? Dean Pesnell of NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center says no. He believes this solar cycle will feature a double peak in activity. The sun hit one peak with high sunspot numbers in 2011. In 2012 activity dipped. Now, Pesnell is predicting it will go back up again this year in a second peak, before subsiding. For more information, click on the image below to watch a video released by NASA today:

Double-peak-1024x607.jpg

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In