The Sun Is Oddly Quiet This Month, NASA’s Images Indicate

Ghuncha Shaheed
Dec 2, 2016

NASA has released a couple of images of the sun this month and guess what? The raging ball of fire seems to be taking its solar activity down a notch. How exactly can we tell? Well, the images of the sun came spotless this month. Usually, there are tiny spots appearing on the surface of the sun in those images, but this month, the Sun’s surface appears to be as spotless as a pearl.

Sun spots are tiny that appear on its surface and these spots indicate the level of solar activity taking place on the Sun’s surface. These spots are areas where the magnetic field is extremely strong, thousands of times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field.

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Eventually, all of this magnetic energy is released in the form of solar flares, which are brief but intensive high-energy radiations. These solar flares are responsible for interrupting radio signals and producing the gorgeous aurorae in the Northern and Southern poles, which were observed recently at the end of October.

Since then, the sun has been oddly calm and quiet in terms of its solar activity. The images were taken from 14th November to the 18th of November. They show that this is one of the lowest activities of the Sun that has been observed since the year 2011.

The images below show the heightened contrast between the Sun surfaces, which were taken using the Solar Dynamic Observatory’s IntensityGram.

Image from NASA showing the spotless Sun with least solar activity in November 2016

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A NASA image from January 2013 indicating the sun spots of solar activity

Don’t be worried, NASA assures

So far, the scientists are reassuring us that this phenomenon is nothing to be worrying about. They explain that the Sun itself has a pendulum-like solar cycle, which repeats after every 11 years and the latest peak of this solar activity was observed in 2014. After that, it is pretty much expected that the solar activity will decrease.

What is a little peculiar is that the Sun is only half way through its cycle and it is 5 years off from its solar minimum. So technically, the solar minimum was not to be expected until 2021. So what exactly is the reason for this early phenomenon? The scientists are still figuring it out.

“At this point in time, the sunspot numbers seem to be sliding downwards faster than expected, though the solar minimum level should not occur until 2021,” a statement from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory explained.

The Sun had experienced this low before in June and it is also to be noted that the Sun is at its weakest point in the past 100 years so some spotless patches are to be expected. But so far, there is nothing to panic about.