The Sun has, for the past many years, been a hub of volatile activity and, as such, typically appeared as a glowing, speckled orb.
But according to researchers, it has recently entered a period of calm and has been eerily spotless, as seen in video footage captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
According to an article by Dr. Tony Philips from NASA, the disappearing sunspots come as no surprise to forecasters. However, he said what has shocked them is how fast it has occurred.
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the predicted sunspot number for April-May 2018 is about 15 but “the actual monthly values have been [significantly] lower.”
Philips said researchers are keeping an eye on the sun now because of what happened the last time when sunspots disappeared. With a lower sunspot number, the sun may dim and cause Earth’s upper atmosphere to cool and shrink. This would allow space junk to accumulate in low Earth orbit.
He also noted that there may be an increase of cosmic rays penetrating into the inner solar system, which has the potential to alter the chemistry of Earth’s upper atmosphere, triggering lightning and seed clouds.