Sunspots Take Off: 'Big Quiet'

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A man jogs on the sand next to the Pacific Ocean at sunrise
A man jogs on the sand next to the Pacific Ocean at sunrise in the beach in California June 20, 2014. Reuters

The sun has taken off as no sunspots, the phenomena of the photosphere to appear as dark spots, were observed on July 17. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, in reference to data made available by the Sunspot Index of the Royal Observatory of Belgium and Long-Term Solar Observations project, observed that the sun produced no sunspots.

Since August 14, 2011, this is the first time this phenomena, which is being called "Big Quiet," has taken place. In 2011, a high rate of solar activity was observed, and it was said to be a "temporary intermission." For a few days before this, the scientists have noticed very few sunspots, which Dr. Alan Duffy, astrophysicist from Swinburne University, dubs a "very weird" development.

It is said that the absence of the sunspots happens due to a high level of magnetic activity on the sun. Alan explained that the sunspots change all the time, but not seeing any is strange. 

The part of the sun in which solar activity originates after coronal mass ejections, solar flares and flashes of brightness are what constitute a sunspot. They seem darker to us because the highly concentrated magnetic fields are cooler when compared to the surface surrounding the sun.

Tony Philips, physicist and writer of, told Inquistr, "It is not altogether that usual to have a Big Quiet event. It is weird, but it's not super weird. To have a spotless day during solar maximum is odd, but then again, this solar maximum we are in has been very wimpy." He continued that currently, in the space age, weakest solar maximum is being observed, hence, the appearance of a spotless sun.

It was only in the last 50 years that the sun is being observed with lots of detail, even if the sun has been a part of the solar system for about 4.5 billion years, said a heliophysicist at Goddard Space Flight Center, Alex Young.

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