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Solar Minimum has Arrived
NASA ^ | 03.06.2006 | Dr. Tony Phillips

Posted on 03/07/2006 2:30:00 AM PST by S0122017

Solar Minimum has Arrived

03.06.2006

March 6, 2006: Every year in February, the students of Mrs. Phillips's 5th grade class in Bishop, California, celebrate Galileo's birthday (Feb. 15th) by repeating one of his discoveries. They prove that the sun spins.

It's simple. Step 1: Look at the sun. Galileo did this using a primitive telescope; Mrs. Phillips's students use the internet. Step 2: Sketch the sunspots. Step 3: Repeat daily. After only a few days, it's obvious that the sunspots are moving and sun is spinning, performing one complete turn every 27 days.

This procedure worked fine in 1610. But in 2006, "we had a problem," says young Jonathan Garcia. "No sunspots," explains his science fair partner Dakota Winkler.

Right: A picture of the sun taken Feb. 10, 2006, by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). [Larger image]

For almost the entire month of February 2006 the sun was utterly blank. If Galileo had looked at the sun on his 442nd birthday, he would have been disappointed—no sunspots, no spin, no discovery.

What's going on? NASA solar physicist David Hathaway explains: "Solar minimum has arrived."

Sunspots come and go with an 11-year rhythm called the sunspot cycle. At the cycle's peak, solar maximum, the sun is continually peppered with spots, some as big as the planet Jupiter. But for every peak there is a valley, and during solar minimum months can go by without a single sunspot.

"That's where we are now—at minimum," says Hathaway.

Actually, we're at the beginning of the minimum. February 2006 was the first month in almost ten years with mostly no sunspots. For 21 of February's 28 days, the sun was blank. Hathaway expects this situation to continue for the rest of 2006.

Below: Sunspot counts from the time of Galileo through the end of 2005. In recent centuries, counts have gone up and down with an 11-year period. [More]

No sunspots means low solar activity. Sunspots are sources of solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can disrupt radio communications and even cause power outages on Earth during severe magnetic storms. These problems should subside during the year ahead. Auroras, a beautiful side-effect of magnetic storms, should subside, too. "Too bad," says Hathaway, who enjoys Northern Lights.

Galileo was lucky. The year 1610 was close to a maximum of the sunspot cycle, so when he projected an image of the sun through his spyglass, he immediately saw enormous spots. The spots themselves did not surprise him. Chinese astronomers looking at the sun naked-eye through clouds and mist had reported seeing sunspots as early as 28 BC. The reality of sunspots was uncontroversial, but the nature of sunspots was a mystery. Were they satellites of the sun? Dark clouds in the sun's atmosphere? Or something else? Galileo's daily sketches showed plainly that the sun was spinning and that sunspots were close to the surface of the spinning orb. Personally, Galileo thought sunspots might be clouds.

Now we know what they really are: great islands of magnetism. Sunspots appear when magnetic force-fields generated by the sun's inner dynamo poke through the surface. These fields block the flow of heat from below, cooling the sun in their vicinity. If you stuck a thermometer in a sunspot, it would register "only" a few thousand degrees Celsius. This makes it look dark compared to the surrounding inferno.

Sunspots are in a state of non-stop upheaval. Tangled lines of magnetism twist and stretch until the tension becomes too great and an explosion occurs—a flare. This link between flares and spots is why solar minimum is so quiet.

"But not absolutely quiet," adds Hathaway. "During solar minimum we can have occasional sunspots and solar flares." Indeed there was at least one monster spot and one X-class solar flare (the most powerful kind) during each of the last three minima in 1976, 1986 and 1996.

2006 will probably be the same—long stretches of quiet with occasional episodes of spots and flares. How long will this last? Stay tuned for the answer in our next story: "Solar Storm Warning."

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Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA


TOPICS: Astronomy
KEYWORDS: climate; climatechange; environment; godsgravesglyphs; maunder; solarcycle; solarmimimum; space; sun; sunspot
KevinDavis
1 posted on 03/07/2006 2:30:07 AM PST by S0122017
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To: KevinDavis; SunkenCiv

Ping

sunkenciv:
Thought solar minimum may be related to climate change in the past, so that's why you get pinged too


2 posted on 03/07/2006 2:31:39 AM PST by S0122017
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To: S0122017

How do we know that all the sun spots have not moved to the other side????


3 posted on 03/07/2006 2:32:58 AM PST by Quick Shot
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To: Quick Shot

Cause the sun spins on it's axis and earth spins around the sun.


4 posted on 03/07/2006 2:39:31 AM PST by S0122017
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To: Quick Shot
How do we know that all the sun spots have not moved to the other side????

Because the sun rotates once in 27 days - we would see them come around.

They can also look at the far side, via radar means: Here's a pic showing one small sunspot:

                    Earth side                                   Far side
Go to SpaceWeather.com for more.

5 posted on 03/07/2006 3:16:04 AM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: Quick Shot
How do we know that all the sun spots have not moved to the other side????

Because it's just another Bush/Rove conspiracy.

6 posted on 03/07/2006 3:51:50 AM PST by libertylover (Democrats: Trying since 1968 to transform America into The Great Satan.)
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To: S0122017; All
The Sun has a Thousand Faces--- Thread 3
7 posted on 03/07/2006 4:16:04 AM PST by backhoe (-30-)
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To: S0122017

Ok, I'm late to the story, but isn't it interesting that the Maunder Minimum seems to match up with the "little ice age" dates? What does this say about global warming?


8 posted on 03/07/2006 8:32:54 AM PST by T. P. Pole
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To: T. P. Pole

Global warming is entirely political in origin.


9 posted on 03/07/2006 9:52:25 AM PST by SunkenCiv (Yes indeed, Civ updated his profile and links pages again, on Monday, March 6, 2006.)
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To: S0122017; blam; FairOpinion; Ernest_at_the_Beach; StayAt HomeMother; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; asp1; ...
Thanks S0122017.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

10 posted on 03/07/2006 9:52:49 AM PST by SunkenCiv (Yes indeed, Civ updated his profile and links pages again, on Monday, March 6, 2006.)
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To: S0122017

The eleven-year solar cycle is actually twenty-two years. Halfway through, the magnetism of the sunspots reverses.


11 posted on 03/07/2006 9:57:14 AM PST by RightWhale (pas de lieu, Rhone que nous)
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To: S0122017
Time for the big chill......

We should be cooling like a fresh apple pie.

12 posted on 03/07/2006 9:59:01 AM PST by Cold Heat
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To: S0122017
Great article. Sunspot activity also affects radio communications. A series of books I'm hooked on, 1632, by Eric Flint which is a SF story that sets and entire town of modern folk into the middle of Germany in 1632 has to take this into account as it continues. Seems that during the Maunder Minimum, it would have been difficult to use shortwave radio for long distance communication because you wouldn't get the atmospheric skip that you do today.

BTW: the above link is a free copy of the entire 1632 novel available from the Baen Free Library.

You can download several books from the series and many others, free of charge. No registration, no nothing. They are available in several different formats. I highly recommend the 1632 series.

13 posted on 03/07/2006 10:06:23 AM PST by zeugma (Anybody who says XP is more secure than OS X or Linux has been licking toads.)
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To: Cold Heat
We should be cooling like a fresh apple pie.

Curse your pie talk - its still an hour until lunch here, and I am hungry...

14 posted on 03/07/2006 10:06:48 AM PST by AzSteven
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To: AzSteven
:-)

Had some hot cherry pie with icecream for lunch.......

15 posted on 03/07/2006 10:08:26 AM PST by Cold Heat
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To: 1066AD; 1ofmanyfree; AlexW; ASOC; bigbob; Brian Allen; BushCountry; Calamari; CenTex; ...
Ham Radio Ping List

Please Freepmail me if you want to be added to or deleted from the list.

16 posted on 03/07/2006 10:12:01 AM PST by Denver Ditdat (Melting solder since 1975)
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To: Denver Ditdat

Well, guess I'll be leaving my QRP rig (a Yaesu FT-817 with a little "Miracle Whip" antenna) in the closet for a couple more years... :)

}:-)4


17 posted on 03/07/2006 10:24:30 AM PST by Moose4 ("I will shoulder my musket and brandish my sword/In defense of this land and the word of the Lord")
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To: Denver Ditdat
"Solar minimum has arrived."

No doubt. 17m has been dead. Even WWV on 10MHz is heard to pick up.

18 posted on 03/07/2006 11:41:56 AM PST by Professional Engineer (Ground Zero - microscopic and colossal at the same time.)
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To: S0122017

19 posted on 03/07/2006 11:58:54 AM PST by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty," not the "Statue of Security.")
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To: Quick Shot
"How do we know that all the sun spots have not moved to the other side????"

Never try subtle humor on scientists. You will get a straight answer every time.

20 posted on 03/07/2006 12:13:18 PM PST by Designer (Just a nit-pick'n and chagrin'n)
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To: backhoe

I went to the link, and tried to bump it.


I guess it's too old!

Like us!


21 posted on 03/07/2006 12:21:30 PM PST by fanfan ( "We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality" - Ayn Rand)
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To: S0122017

Bump for later


22 posted on 03/07/2006 1:05:53 PM PST by Dustbunny (Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. - Will Rogers)
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To: fanfan

"I went to the link, and tried to bump it.
I guess it's too old!
Like us!"



Appreciate the attempt. Yes, I feel my age, but I like pointing out to Miss Emily, who is a decade younger than I, "I can still outrun, outfight, and outwork you, so don't get too cocky about being so much younger..."

That old post is still a sentimental favorite of mine- many years ago, I was the Polish Solar Observer's Society's sole American observer- I did sunspot counts for their compillation of the Wolf Number:
http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/stp/SOLAR/SSN/ssn.html


23 posted on 03/07/2006 1:16:07 PM PST by backhoe (-30-)
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To: FreedomCalls
Looks like she's gettin' ready to blow!
24 posted on 03/07/2006 1:17:52 PM PST by VadeRetro (I have the updated "Your brain on creationism" on my homepage.)
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To: Denver Ditdat

Add me to the list.

BTW, I've had some odd interference on my Sat. TV (dish network) for the last week or two. I thought it was solar, but if we're at the minimum, that seems unlikely.


25 posted on 03/07/2006 1:19:30 PM PST by Wiseghy ("You want to break this army? Then break your word to it.")
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To: backhoe

I saw that.

And you had an article in Canadian Astronomy about dark skies?

Cool!


26 posted on 03/07/2006 1:30:33 PM PST by fanfan ( "We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality" - Ayn Rand)
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To: Wiseghy

Welcome to the list!


27 posted on 03/07/2006 2:05:07 PM PST by Denver Ditdat (Melting solder since 1975)
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To: Quick Shot

We'll be able to answer that in about a month.


28 posted on 03/07/2006 2:12:43 PM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: fanfan
Yes, I wrote several articles for newsletter of the "Observer's Journal" of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada back in the early nineteen-eighties. One was something about tips for observing from a light-polluted environment, and danged if I can recall what the others were. Somewhere, in an eggcrate of "stuff," I still have copies. Writers are hams, who never tire of seeing their own name in ink.

It all sounds very grand, but the newsletter was hand-typed and then xeroxed, and they were hungry for fillers. However, it was more than could be said for my late, first brother-in-law's works. Despite attending college for virtually all his life ( I called him a Professional Student... ) studying writing and ancillary fields, he never got a thing into print. Too busy writing "the next Great American Novel," he viewed such yeomanly work as magazine articles or ad copy as being beneath him.

Each thing I had published was like unto coals of fire, heaped on his head.

29 posted on 03/07/2006 2:19:52 PM PST by backhoe (-30-)
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To: backhoe

LOL!


30 posted on 03/07/2006 2:24:28 PM PST by fanfan ( "We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality" - Ayn Rand)
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To: zeugma
Shortwave? How about during 1859, a solar storm was so strong it enabled it to be 1.) observed, 2.) connected to auroras,
and 3.) disrupt telegraph systems.
31 posted on 03/07/2006 2:34:07 PM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: RightWhale
The eleven-year solar cycle is actually twenty-two years. Halfway through, the magnetism of the sunspots reverses.

I have books about radio electronics from the 1930's to the 1950's that claim there could be a 22 year cycle theory too.
32 posted on 03/07/2006 3:47:15 PM PST by Nowhere Man (Michael Savage for President - 2008!)
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To: zeugma
Great article. Sunspot activity also affects radio communications. A series of books I'm hooked on, 1632, by Eric Flint which is a SF story that sets and entire town of modern folk into the middle of Germany in 1632 has to take this into account as it continues. Seems that during the Maunder Minimum, it would have been difficult to use shortwave radio for long distance communication because you wouldn't get the atmospheric skip that you do today. BTW: the above link is a free copy of the entire 1632 novel available from the Baen Free Library.

You can download several books from the series and many others, free of charge. No registration, no nothing. They are available in several different formats. I highly recommend the 1632 series.


I love "1632!" My guess on shortwave communication, had it existed then, is most likely at night, you would probably have to resort to using frequencies from above the AM band (1700 kc) to about 7000 kc. Daytime, maybe 9000 kc to around 14,000 or 15,000 kc much like you'd experience in the solar minimum. Anything above perhaps 20,000 kc would be useless for long distance comms, most likely act VHF-like in behaviour. You might have to resort to some sort of VLF backup system for long range comms much like our subs use where you can at least ocmmunicate using low baud data from a computer or teletype, perhaps using Morse Code too.

One question I always wanted to have answered is, does Mars have an ionosphere? How about the Moon? What would shortwave comms be like on Mars or the Moon? OK, that's three but still it is interesting to wonder. B-)
33 posted on 03/07/2006 3:59:20 PM PST by Nowhere Man (Michael Savage for President - 2008!)
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To: Nowhere Man

"Twenty-two year cycle"

I have noticed that when there is a particularly severe drought, the whether people are likely to talk about "the worst in 22 years", and sometimes about the sun spot cycles.

When I took Astronomy in 1959, there was also talk of a larger 88 year cycle. Now let's see, 1929 plus 88 equals 2017. We are having major droughts in the west and Texas. Perhaps this is a warmup for what will happen in 11 years; another Dust Bowl??


34 posted on 03/08/2006 3:43:24 AM PST by gleeaikin (Question Authority)
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Catastrophism

35 posted on 05/14/2006 8:01:22 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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