Since May 2008, our Sun has had an extremely low number of sunspots. This activity has been covered a number of times. There have been other changes in the Sun as well, which you should know about. Here is a summary from Wikipedia:

  • It is in the midst of an unusual sunspot minimum, lasting far longer and with a higher percentage of spotless days than normal; since May 2008.
  • It is measurably dimming; its output has dropped 0.02% at visible wavelengths and 6% at EUV wavelengths in comparison with the levels at the last solar minimum.
  • Over the last two decades, the solar wind’s speed has dropped by 3%, its temperature by 13%, and its density by 20%.
  • Its magnetic field is at less than half strength compared to the minimum of 22 years ago. The entire heliosphere, which fills the Solar System, has shrunk as a result, resulting in an increase in the level of cosmic radiation striking the Earth and its atmosphere.

If you’re too lazy to read all of that, then here’s a nice picture and histogram from NASA which sums up the problem:

Cycle 24 Sunspot Number Prediction

Cycle 24 Sunspot Prediction

Spotless Days

Spotless Days

So, why do you care about all this nonsense? Well, there’s only three ways that this whole thing can play out.

  1. The sunspots slowly return, and hopefully the increase in greenhouse gases from climate change doesn’t cause too many problems as the heat returns. This isn’t so bad an option.
  2. The sunspots return in a burst of solar activity, causing a CME. This will result in mass destruction to our power grids and electronics, similar to what happened in the solar storm of 1859. This would suck, but I wouldn’t mind the lack of Justin Bieber baby news for a few months.
  3. The sunspot activity does not return, and we enter another Maunder Minimum. This would invariable lead to another global cool-down, and probably a small ice-age. If it persisted, it could possibly cause a bigger ice age. This would suck.

It will be an interesting few years.

[Update Nov 3rd, 5:30pm] It seems that one of the biggest sunspots on record has caused an X-class solar flare (the largest kind), along with a CME. Fortunately, it was not directed at earth. You can see the info about it here, and know that I got the information from