NASA has released the discoveries made during the first two orbits of the Sun-skimming Parker Solar Probe—now the fastest known artificial object to orbit the Sun—revealing high-speed solar winds and powerful rogue plasma waves, revelations that point out that we have significant gaps in our understanding of how the Sun
Young stars that are just starting their luminous lives are known to give off massive solar flares that can be many hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than the largest flares on record from our own middle-aged Sun. Juvenile stars burst with these “superflares” on a weekly basis, but
Researchers are predicting that our Sun is about to enter a period of long-term quiet called a grand solar minimum, a state that might begin as soon as 2020, and could last as long as fifty years. While this period will see a decrease in sunspot formation, magnetic activity and ultraviolet radiation output, the decline in solar radiation isn’t expected to help alleviate the problem of global warming in any meaningful way; however, it may cool the extreme upper atmosphere to the coldest it’s been for the past 70 years.
The past month has seen a startling increase in activity by the Sun with four powerful X-class solar flares recorded; including one that measured as a X9.3, the strongest since 2005. Coronal mass ejections (CME) – huge arcs of plasma that erupt from the Sun’s surface – interfered with GPS, and high-frequency radio transmissions, and generated spectacular aurora displays. But, in addition to the sudden intensity of these events, this recent burst of activity has left scientists scratching their heads.