The Sun’s in a Slump

By Tom Yulsman | March 6, 2013 11:27 am

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:

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts
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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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