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Solar Drought Over; Sun Activity Increasing

Scientists have reported this week that Solar activity is the highest it has been in two years. New sunspots have been reported over the last two months, and the "solar drought" seems to definitely behind us.

Sun Spots credit: NASA

Indeed, research last month has discovered at least five sunspot groups. Sunspots, seen as the dark areas in the photo, are areas of cooler temperature on the suns surface, and sites of massive amounts of magnetic energy. Scientists have named this new period of activity Solar Cycle 24, and is believed to have begun late last year. Each new cycle is characterized by new sunspots, which are located in different areas on the sun's surface and have different magnetic properties. While most of the sunspot groups discovered this year have been from the old solar cycle, it is now evident that more and more frequently sunspot groups of the new cycle are surfacing.

Just this week on November 3rd and 4th, sunspot number 1007 released a series of solar flares. These flares are of definite interest to space travel, as they can scramble radio transmissions, increase radiation risks, and even disable satellites. While the increased activity is important to watch, scientists such as David Hathaway of NASA Marshall Space Flight center note that the transition to a peakin solar activity can be a long one. "We're still years away from a solar maximum and" he states. 

For more information, check out solarcycle24.com.


2008-11-08 
Matthew Cannella
Explorerfish Space Correspondant

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