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Old 04-16-2009, 10:08 AM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: U.K.
Posts: 3,380
Default The Sun currently emits less radio noise...


Last month (March 15th, to be exact), I,(Brian Enke)
posted an article about the current, highly unusual sunspot cycle after being alerted by a friend pursuing a PhD in solar physics. At that time, the sun had no sunspots... and it still doesn't.

The Space Weather website lists the current sunspot-free streak at 19 days, so maybe a tiny blemish snuck past a few weeks ago. The site reports other interesting statistics as well:

91 days in 2009 have been sunspot-free (that's 88% of all days so far).
Since 2004, we've had 602 sunspot-free days. The typical Solar Minimum lasts for 485 days.
2008 had 266 out of 366 sunspot-free days (73%). The only recorded year with fewer sunspots was 1913, which had 311 sunspot-free days.
The solar wind pressure is currently lower than at any other recorded time (NASA first kept track in the 1960's).
Compared to the last Solar Minimum in 1996, the Sun is currently 0.02% less bright in visible wavelengths and 6% less bright in the extreme UV wavelengths.
The Sun currently emits less radio noise than at any point since 1955.
Winners and Losers

The deep Solar Minimum affects various systems and people in various ways. For example, more galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) bombard the Earth now that at any other recorded time (due to the low solar wind pressure). This means you're soaking up an extra dose of GCRs if you fly in an airplane or live at a very high altitude in the Colorado Rockies (like me). But don't worry - much - the average person won't notice the difference in GCR dosage.

Satellite TV companies should emerge as a winner. A strong solar wind heats the Earth's upper atmosphere, causing it to swell out farther into space. A weak solar wind does just the opposite. Satellites are currently experiencing less atmospheric drag than normal, resulting in greater orbital stability with less fuel expended for station-keeping.

On the other hand... the same can be said for orbital debris. Space junk is a winner too, and that nasty problem isn't going away any time soon.

If you live up north and love auroras, you lose. Auroras happen when solar storms (solar flares or CMEs, Coronal Mass Ejections) hit the Earth's magnetic field. Flares and CMEs are usually associated with sunspots... so fewer sunspots typically means fewer, less severe solar storms. No sunspots probably means no solar storms.

Lunar astronauts also lose, due to the increased count of GCRs hitting the inner solar system. Fortunately, NASA's return-to-the-Moon program hasn't progressed far enough for this to be a problem. The Earth's magnetic field protects astronauts on the International Space Station, but like airline travelers, these astronauts may see slightly elevated GCR counts too.

As for tie-ins to Global Warming? .... Well, I'm no fool. I'm not going to touch that topic here... but the Space Weather site contains some interesting speculation.
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