The Sun is the focal celestial body of our solar system, a persistent force that keeps planets in steady orbit, and one of the main reasons life as we know it can happen on Earth.
We are so used to seeing the Sun rising and setting, and the star is a lot more complicated than that. Just like other stars, the Sun goes through a series of changes during its lifetime.
Astronomy has evolved so much that some of the changes in the star’s behavior can be predicted with extreme precision.
At the moment, the Sun is going through a less active phase, known as a solar minimum.
The Sun experiences periodic 11-year intervals that include energetic peaks, followed by low points.
During a peak, the Sun is flooded by sunspots and solar flares.
However, in a solar minimum, the Sun’s activity is a lot quieter than usual, which means that the number of sunspots and energy decreases notably.
NASA scientists call the current phase a “Grand Solar Minimum.”
The last time this specific phenomenon happened was between 1650 and 1715, during the “Little Ice Age” of the planet’s Northern Hemisphere.
It was the period “when a combination of cooling from volcanic aerosols and low solar activity produced lower surface temperatures,” states NASA’s Global Climate Change blog.
Thankfully, the new solar minimum won’t spark a new ice age, but that’s due to a grim reason – climate change.
NASA scientists explained how the warming provoked by the greenhouse gas emissions from human activity is approximately six times greater than the possible decades-long cooling caused by an extended “Grand Solar Minimum.”
“Even if a Grand Solar Minimum were to last a century, global temperatures would continue to warm,” NASA scientists wrote.