posted on Aug, 27 2009 @ 10:49 AM
reply to post by Hazelnut
The Sun's activity seems to go in (roughly) 11-year "Solar Cycles". These cycles start with a period of very low activity ("Solar Minimum");
then activity slowly escalates, which culminates in the middle of the cycle with a period of very high solar activity ("Solar Maximum"); then the
activity gradually recedes back to a period of very low activity. The solar maximum occurs basically right in the middle of the solar cycle.
The time between two solar minimums (and between two solar maximums, for that matter) has been tracked for about 250 years, and the average length for
these cycles is about 11 years. However, there have been shorter cycles (about 9 years) and longer cycles (about 14 years).
Scientists say that the last cycle perhaps ended with a minimum in December 2008, at which time a new cycle begun -- although the actual date may need
to be later revised based on what the Sun does next. If the December 2008 date holds, then that past cycle would have lasted 12.5 years.
It is said that the present Solar minimum is the quietest (less sun spsots, flares, and other activity) we've had in 100 years. Some (such as the
OP) are wondering if this is "the calm before the storm", but the last time we had such a quiet solar minimum, the following maximum was very
ordinary. So the "quietness" of the minimum could be meaningless to us.
You can google "Solar Cycle" and get a lot of info.
Here's a pdf file of a paper written by the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 that (in a nutshell) explains solar activity: