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Solar Storms Season Heating Up

April 21, 2011 Comments off
Sunspots — cooler regions fraught with intense magnetic fields — now regularly dot the surface of the sun, and the star has unleashed several powerful flares in recent months, including...

Sunspots — cooler regions fraught with intense magnetic fields — now regularly dot the surface of the sun, and the star has unleashed several powerful flares in recent months, including a Feb. 14 blast that was the most powerful outburst in more than four years. All signs suggest that the sun has shaken itself out of its slumber, researchers say. After three years in a deep solar sleep of historic proportions, the sun is starting to wake up.

In 2008, the sun plunged into its least active state in nearly a century. Sunspots all but vanished, solar flares subsided and the star was eerily quiet. Quiet spells on the sun are nothing new. They come along every 11 years or so, as part of the sun’s natural activity cycle. But this latest solar minimum lasted longer than usual, prompting some researchers to wonder if it would ever end.

This year has started off with a bang, as sunspots are crackling with activity. Earth-orbiting satellites have detected Read more…