Saturday, March 9, 2013

NASA warns 'something unexpected is happening to the Sun' in 2013 - Daily Mail/Huff Post UK

NASA warns 'something unexpected is happening to the Sun' in year that is supposed to be the peak the sunspot cycle | Mail Online

UPDATE:

http://spaceweather.com

 

COLLISION COURSE? A comet is heading for Mars, and there is a chance that it might hit the Red Planet in October 2014. An impact wouldn't necessarily mean the end of NASA's Mars program, but it would transform the program along with Mars itself. Get the full story and a video from Science@NASA.
CORONAL HOLE: A dark gap in the sun's northern atmosphere--a "coronal hole"--is spewing solar wind into space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is monitoring the opening, shown here in an extreme UV image taken during the early hours of March 27th:
Coronal holes are places where the sun's magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. The sun is literally boiling itself away. Solar wind flowing from this particular coronal hole is expected to reach Earth on March 30-31. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the solar wind arrives. Aurora alerts: text, voice.

 

The calm before the solar storm? NASA warns 'something unexpected is happening to the Sun'

  • 2013 was due to be year of the 'solar maximum'
  • As this picture shows, in fact the sun is incredibly calm - baffling experts
By Mark Prigg
|
'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 this image reveals, solar activity is relatively low. 

Scroll down for video
Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent, as this image shows - despite Nasa forecasting major solar storms
Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent, as this image shows - despite Nasa forecasting major solar storms

THE SOLAR CYCLE

Conventional wisdom holds that solar activity swings back and forth like a simple pendulum.

At one end of the cycle, there is a quiet time with few sunspots and flares.
At the other end, solar max brings high sunspot numbers and frequent solar storms.

It’s a regular rhythm that repeats every 11 years.
Reality is more complicated.
Astronomers have been counting sunspots for centuries, and they have seen that the solar cycle is not perfectly regular.
'Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent,' the space agency says.
The image above 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.

Researchers have recently captured massive sunspots on the solar surface - and believed we should have seen more
Researchers have recently captured massive sunspots on the solar surface - and believed we should have seen more
The same thing could be happening now, as sunspot counts jumped in 2011 and dipped in 2012, he believes.
Pesnell expects them to rebound in 2013: 'I am comfortable in saying that another peak will happen in 2013 and possibly last into 2014.'
He spotted a similarity between Solar Cycle 24 and Solar Cycle 14, which had a double-peak during the first decade of the 20th century.
If the two cycles are twins, 'it would mean one peak in late 2013 and another in 2015'.
 

Nasa: 'Something Unexpected Is Happening On The Sun' (PICTURES)

Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted:   |  Updated: 08/03/2013 14:15 GMT

Something unexpected is happening on the Sun, Nasa says:

Nothing.

While all predictions suggest that 2013 should mark the high point of solar activity over a regular 11-year sunspot cycle - the so-called 'Solar Max' - our star is actually in a remarkably quiet mood.
Nasa said that since the start of the year there has been a pronounced lack of major solar flares and other activity which should be seen at this point in the Sun's cycle.

732599main_sunspots_hmi_2013059_946
Above: a picture released by Nasa illustrating low solar activity
Nasa said that "sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent."
It went on:
The image above 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. HMI observes the solar disk at 6173 Ångstroms, a wavelength designed to study surface oscillations and the magnetic field. HMI observed just a few small sunspots on an otherwise clean face, which is usually riddled with many spots during peak solar activity.
However, there is no reason to panic. Nasa explains in a lengthy and interesting post that the solar cycle is very complex, and can have multiple peaks and troughs over time. It's worth a read if you're interested or terrified.
Meanwhile solar flares are still occurring - one forced the Mars rover Curiosity into safe mode earlier this week - and the current lull is described as a "quiet interlude" rather than a potential source of humanity's ultimate downfall.
MYTH: Solar flares have no effect on Earth.
REALITY: Solar flares can release electromagnetic radiation that's strong enough to disrupt electric power grids, satellites, GPS, and radio communications.

Pictured: Coronal mass ejection as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 7, 2011.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/03/08/nasa-something-unexpected_n_2836329.html?ir=UK+Tech


 



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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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