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Quiet Sun Baffles Scientists: ‘We Haven’t Got A Foggy Clue’

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Peter Rugg, Daily Mail

Researchers are baffled as the sun has gone quiet during a time in its 11-year-cycle when it should be at its most active. ‘It all underlines that solar physicists really don’t know what the heck is happening on the sun’.

A nearly spotless sun

A nearly spot-free sun as viewed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on July 18. (Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA)

Just a few weeks ago it was bursting with sunspots but now it seems to be going days without even developing a single dark spot.

Solar physicist Tony Phillips has named it an ‘All Quiet Event.’  

‘It is weird, but it’s not super weird,’ he told The Los Angeles Times. ‘To have a spotless day during maximum is odd, but then again, this solar maximum we are in has been very wimpy.’

Phillips is an expert about such activity and writes about it on his site, SpaceWeather.com.

Sunspots attract attention because they highlight the part of the sun where solar activity originates.

That can mean solar flares or even coronal mass ejections, which happen when material from the son shoots into space.

The phenomena occur by high;y concentrated magnetic fields which are slightly cooler than the surface of the sun.

Energy builds up as the fields become tangled, and when that energy is released in an explosion it results in a solar flare. 

Phillips noted that hit solar maximum seems to be the weakest of the past century, making spotless days to be expected.

Back on Aug. 14, 2011, the sun was completely free of spots and that year still managed to have a high rate of solar activity overall. Phillips described it as a case of ‘temporary intermission.’

It’s still unknown if this period will be similar.

‘It all underlines that solar physicists really don’t know what the heck is happening on the sun,’ he said. ‘We just don’t know how to predict the sun, that is the take away message of this event.’

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