Sun at its dimmest for nearly a century, say scientists

A lack of sunspots and solar flares has made the Sun its dimmest for nearly a century, claim scientists.

The Sun normally undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity. [via telegraph]

At its peak, it has a tumultuous boiling atmosphere that spits out flares and planet-sized chunks of super-hot gas. This is followed by a calmer period.

Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

Evidence from tree trunks and ice cores suggest that the Sun is calming down after an unusually high point in its activity.

Professor Mike Lockwood, of Southampton University, believes that as well as the Sun's 11-year cycle, there is an underlying solar oscillation lasting hundreds of years.

He suggests that 1985 marked the "grand maximum" in this long-term cycle and the Maunder Minimum in the 17th century marked its low point.

"We are re-entering the middle ground after a period which has seen the Sun in its top 10% of activity," said Professor Lockwood.

"We would expect it to be more than a hundred years before we get down to the levels of the Maunder Minimum."

He added that the current slight dimming of the Sun is not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

"What we are seeing is consistent with a global temperature rise, not that the Sun is coming to our aid," he said.

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