From: National Geographic News
Even the sun appears headed for a recession.
The Ulysses space probe has detected fewer sunspots, decreased solar winds, and a weakening magnetic field—the lowest solar activity observed in 50 years, NASA scientists said yesterday.
That translates into a shrinking of the heliosphere, the invisible “bubble” of solar wind that extends beyond Pluto and guards the planets—ours included—from bombardment by cosmic rays. …
“Over the entire record of sun observations, this is the longest prolonged low pressure that we’ve observed.”
Some variance in solar activity is normal for the sun, which has a 22-year magnetic cycle and an 11-year sunspot cycle.
But McComas said in a statement that researchers have been “surprised to find that the solar wind is much less powerful than it had been in the previous solar minimum.”
Despite its name, solar wind is actually a stream of charged particles that expands out from the sun.
Ed Smith, a NASA Ulysses project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, also added that the drop in solar winds has lasted longer than predicted. …
The so-called Maunder Minimum, a time of low solar activity, lasted from about 1645 to 1715. During this time, access to Greenland was largely cut off by ice, and canals in Holland routinely froze solid, according to NASA.
Glaciers advanced in the Alps….