Scientists Puzzled By Oddities In Sunspot Cycle

The sun has been acting strangely of late, prompting some solar physicists to suggest that once current sunspot activity peaked, which appeared to happen last fall, it could tank and remain that way for several decades. A prolonged period with few or no spots would have a slight, temporary cooling effect on Earth’s climate and a general calming effect on space weather, which would be good news for astronauts and satellites. Recent observations of the sun show that, yes, it’s still acting in a peculiar way for this point in its 11-year sunspot cycle. But as cautious as scientists were in 2009, when they first raised the possibility of a looming so-called grand minimum, those earlier suggestions have given way to shrugs of “who knows?”

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