Friday, December 22, 2006

Funky Sun Frenzy

NASA announces their scientists are expecting the sun to burn with above average frenzy for the next three to four years.

Scientists Predict Big Solar Cycle: Solar cycle 24, due to peak in 2010 or 2011 "looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

"When a gust of solar wind hits Earth's magnetic field, the impact causes the magnetic field to shake. If it shakes hard enough, we call it a geomagnetic storm." In the extreme, these storms cause power outages and make compass needles swing in the wrong direction. Auroras are a beautiful side-effect.

Astronomers have been counting sunspots since the days of Galileo, watching solar activity rise and fall every 11 years. Curiously, four of the five biggest cycles on record have come in the past 50 years. "Cycle 24 should fit right into that pattern," says Hathaway.

The solar irradiance hitting the Earth varies with solar cycles and “four of the five biggest cycles on record have come in the past 50 years”. You know, smug certainty about the fate of the planet would be so much easier if the infinitely complex were just simpler.