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.
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