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Twisted Physics

Moving in STEREO

26 May 2009, 05:15 UTC
Moving in STEREO
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The Sun has been awfully quiet of late. Too quiet, according to those who study our star and its many interactions with the stuff around it. There have been an unusually small number of active regions and
sunspots over the last solar cycle. This hasn't happened since the late 17th/early 18th century, sparking concern in some scientific circles that the Sun could be approaching another ″Maunder minimum″ (as that earlier period is now known), perhaps spawning a second ″Little Ice Age″ of global
cooling. So a frisson of excitement spread through the community earlier this month when NASA's STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) spotted the first major activity of the new solar cycle: a coronal mass ejection (CME) emanating from the far side of the sun. It is "the first major outbreak of solar activity in [the new] Solar Cycle 24,″ according Joseph Gurman, who will take over as project scientist for STEREO at Goddard Space Flight Center on June 1. STEREO is part of a new subfield that has emerged in recent years to address this and related issues: heliophysics. The word was coined by Boston University's George Siscoe to describe anything related to the Sun's heliosphere. It is ...

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