Every 11 years or so, the sunspots (a region on the Sun’s surface marked by intense magnetic activity) on the surface of the Sun die out during the solar cycle minimum (quiet time).
Behaving almost like stock market, just when scientists thought it had hit the bottom, the sunspot cycle has gone even lower than expected by the solar astronomers.
Scientists had reported last year that they observed no sunspots on 266 days (73 per cent) out of 366, saying that the solar cycle had hit the bottom in 2008.
But this is not the case as the same scientists have observed an unusually quiet time for the Sun with the sunspot counts for 2009 having dropped even lower. As on March 31, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year’s 90 days (87 per cent), NASA said.
“We are experiencing a very deep solar minimum,” said solar physicist Dean Pensell of the Goddard space Flight Centre of NASA.
Historical records have shown that there were quiet periods lasting for hundred years between 1450 AD and 1550 AD called ‘Sporer Minimum’ and a 60-year period of quietness from 1645 AD to 1715 AD called ‘Maunder Minimum’ and therefore the scientists have to wait and observe, Senior astrophysicist of Tata Institute of fundamental Research Mayank Vahia told reporters here today.