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Professor Astronomy

Are sunspots going away?

15 Jun 2011, 00:10 UTC
Are sunspots going away?
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A press conference today announced three research projects that suggest that our sun's familiar sunspot cycle might be heading toward a major change or even a pause. You can read good summaries of the findings in this post from space.com and this article on Universe Today; I'll wait while you do that and then give you my first thoughts on this news.

Done reading? Good. First, let me state that I am not a solar physicist, and I do not claim to be an authority on the research being done. So feel free to take my opinions with a grain of salt.

I am skeptical that the prediction of a pause in the solar cycle is indeed coming. This is for many reasons, including:

Past history suggests sunspot predictions more than a few years out are very hard to do (to put it nicely). Sunspot cycle 23, which peaked around 2000, was predicted in 1997 to be a fairly high cycle, but it ended up being somewhat ordinary and lower than predicted.
The current sunspot cycle took a lot longer than normal to get started than any major predictions that I saw (such as this one, which predicted a ...

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