We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

The Sun's in a Slump

ImaGeo iconImaGeo
By Tom Yulsman
Mar 6, 2013 10:27 PMNov 19, 2019 10:02 PM


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:

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.