Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Our Sun's Sunspot Cycle Isn't All That Predictable

"Sun's Strange Behavior Baffles Astronomers" (June 14, 2010)

"The sun's temper ebbs and flows on what scientists had thought was a pretty predictable cycle, but lately our closest star has been acting up.

"Typically, a few stormy years would knock out a satellite or two and maybe trip a power grid on Earth. Then a few years of quiet, and then back to the bad behavior. But an extremely long stretch of low activity in recent years has scientists baffled and scrambling for better forecasting models.

"An expected minimum of solar activity, between 2008 and 2009, was unusually deep. And while the sun would normally ramp up activity by now, heading into its next cycle, the sun may be on the verge of a weak solar cycle instead, astronomers said at the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami last month...."

I don't know that our Sun's behavior is "strange" - but it isn't quite as regular just now as it has been for the last 100 years or so. Which shouldn't be too surprising, since that's a tiny fraction of the 4,500,000,000 or so years that the star has been around. (1/45,000,000, of course)

I suspect that what's being observed now won't seem all that "strange," after researchers have another 100 - or 1,000 - or 10,000 years of observations to study.

We've learned a great deal about how the universe works, since Nicolaus Copernicus and others jump-started contemporary astronomy. We're also learning a little more about how much we don't know: which keeps things interesting.

As I quoted last year:

" 'Your mistake is to think that the little regularities we have observed on one planet for a few hundred years are the real unbreakable laws....' "

Grace Ironwood, Chapter 17.4, "That Hideous Strength" C. S. Lewis (1946)

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TC said...

I told my cousin yesterday after we had solved all the economic and environmental problems on a trip to Wal Mart......anyway I told her when we implemented these decisions the earth would be on a collision course with the sun because the earth would be off it's tilt.....

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...



Thanks for sharing that.

Thinking about it: that's a doomsday scenario I haven't run into. Which is saying something.

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