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September 02, 2008

UH OH: Spotless:

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted. . . . When the sun is active, it's not uncommon to see sunspot numbers of 100 or more in a single month. Every 11 years, activity slows, and numbers briefly drop to near-zero. Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins.

But this year -- which corresponds to the start of Solar Cycle 24 -- has been extraordinarily long and quiet, with the first seven months averaging a sunspot number of only 3. August followed with none at all. The astonishing rapid drop of the past year has defied predictions, and caught nearly all astronomers by surprise.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Fabius Maximus notes that one observatory has found one tiny sunspot (see the update to the item linked above). He also has a big roundup on the subject.

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