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Now, the influx of galactic cosmic rays into our solar system has reached a record high. Measurements by NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft indicate that cosmic rays are 19 per cent more abundant than any previous level seen since space flight began a half century ago."The space era has so far experienced a time of relatively low cosmic ray activity," says Richard Mewaldt of Caltech, who is a member of the ACE team. "We may now be returning to levels typical of past centuries."
That may be a sign that the unusually active sun of the past 100 years or so is returning to the historical norm of lower activity, or even entering a so-called grand minimum of exceptionally low activity that could last centuries.
Scientists can infer variations in the sun's magnetic activity over the past 10,000 years from the abundance of rare isotopes in Greenland ice cores.
ESA sees stardust storms heading for Solar System
Date Released: Monday, August 18, 2003
Source: Artemis Society
Until ten years ago, most astronomers did not believe stardust could enter our Solar System. Then ESA's Ulysses spaceprobe discovered minute stardust particles leaking through the Sun's magnetic shield, into the realm of Earth and the other planets. Now, the same spaceprobe has shown that a flood of dusty particles is heading our way.
What is surprising in this new Ulysses discovery is that the amount of stardust has continued to increase even after the solar activity calmed down and the magnetic field resumed its ordered shape in 2001.
Scientists believe that this is due to the way in which the polarity changed during solar maximum. Instead of reversing completely, flipping north to south, the Sun's magnetic poles have only rotated at halfway and are now more or less lying sideways along the Sun's equator. This weaker configuration of the magnetic shield is letting in two to three times more stardust than at the end of the 1990s. Moreover, this influx could increase by as much as ten times until the end of the current solar cycle in 2012.