Hey Space Placers!
We all take it for granted that the Sun will rise in the east and provide life-sustaining energy to our planet each and every day. After all, this has been going on for the entire history of humanity, let alone that of the Earth.
The Sun became an object of scientific study when Galileo discovered sunspots in 1613. Following generations of solar scientists, intruments, observers, and now spacecraft, have added to our knowledge of the Sun. We can now see the entire Sun, including the side facing away from Earth due to the STEREO A and B spacecraft. We monitor the Sun 24 hours a day, 365 days a hear using SOHO and SDO spacecraft. We can even monitor the INTERIOR of the Sun using special techniques.
All of this data obtained through observations has led to an an impressive body of research and resulting knowledge of our star. The Sun has been showing signs of being in the start of the Solar Maximum phase of its 11-year cycle, coming out of a very deep Minimum Phase where sunspots were pratically non-existant for a number of years, puzzling solar astronomers.
Now it seems that the Sun is possibly undergoing a change in this 11 year cycle. There was a conference recently that discussed solar research and three scientists presented research papers that indicate that the Sun may have weaker than normal solar cycles for the present cycle and the one following.
Just what would this mean for us? No one knows for sure but it is thought that there will be less solar activity which would mean less of a threat to our space satellites and power grid. It also might lead to a cooling of the planet and allow for an assessment as to the Sun's impact on climate.
Read More About It:
Also check out this op-ed in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/17/opinion/17baker.html?_r=1
Sky Guy in VA