No sooner did we write (on our sister site, SPACE.com) the sun is really, really inactive than, you guessed it ...
The sun kicked up a whopping storm Tuesday and more yesterday, as seen by the orbiting STEREO-B spacecraft. The activity is hidden from our terrestrial view, so scientists are eager for a better look. They think two sunspot regions are involved.
Today astronomers are waiting to see if a sunspot rotates into view, as expected. Sunspots are dark regions where strong magnetic activity puts a lid on the release of energy below. When it blows, it's like the cork popping off a champagne bottle, and a solar flare and space storm of charged particles is produced.
Scientists are presently wondering if the recent quietude, which has lasted longer than normal in a natural 11-year cycle of high and low activity, means much. One worry — not much of a worry, the experts say — is the potential for a Little Ice Age. More likely, astronomers figure, the cycle will return to a high point with a vengeance in 2012, potentially kicking up storms that could bring modern technology to its knees.
In our new Etc. format, LiveScience provides links to articles of interest around the web. It is in Beta.
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