National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
The Sun Loses its Spots
The Sun Loses its Spots
25 Jul 2007
(Source: NASA)

While sidewalks crackle in the summer heat, NASA scientists are keeping a close eye on the sun. It is almost spotless, a sign that the Sun may have reached solar minimum. Scientists are now watching for the first spot of the new solar cycle to appear.

The latest image of the Sun from SOHO. Click image to visit the SOHO Web site.
The latest image of the Sun from SOHO. Click image to visit the SOHO Web site.
The 11 year long solar cycle is marked by two extremes, solar minimum and solar maximum. Solar minimum is the period of least solar activity in the solar cycle of the sun. During this time sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes, and often does not occur for days at a time.

When spots begin to appear on the sun once again, scientists know that the sun is heading into a new season of extreme solar activity. At the cycle's peak, solar maximum, the sun is continually peppered with spots, solar flares erupt, and the sun hurls billion-ton clouds of electrified gas into space.

Solar maximum is often compared to the hurricane season here on Earth. Violent solar events, like flares and coronal mass ejections, are the hurricanes of space weather. These solar storms are capable of wreaking havoc with satellites, power grids, and radio communication, including the Global Positioning System.

NOAA's Space Environment Center, Boulder CO, forecasts that the next solar cycle should begin in March 2008 and should peak in late 2011 or mid 2012.

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
 
 
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 27 Jul 2007