Human activity down here on Earth is rather slow for the past few months due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns and community quarantines that governments put in place. But we might not be alone with our slow activity, as the Sun is lacking some sunspots and is blank for a while now.
According to data from Spaceweather.com, 2020 has already seen 100 days when our Sun has no sunspots, which denotes a lack of solar activity.
This is the second year in a row when the Sun has been inactive, causing record-setting slump and experts fearing a deep solar minimum.
"So far this year, the Sun has been blank 76% of the time, a rate surpassed only once before in the Space Age. Last year, 2019, the Sun was blank 77% of the time. Two consecutive years of record-setting spotlessness adds up to a very deep solar minimum, indeed," experts said at Spaceweather.
For those who are not aware, the sunspots are those dark spots that appear in the Sun's surface, which is indicative of solar activity, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
According to Forbes, sunspots have continuously been counted since 1838.
What is Solar Minimum?
But do we have to be worried?
Based on a past report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it is expected that we'd be entering solar minimum or the time where the Sun has less activity, which is why it has been blank for a while now.
NASA said that the peak of the Sun's activity for its solar cycle was in 2014, and they are expecting that it will hit a low point in 2019 to 2020, which is exactly what's happening now.
The agency also said that it is a normal part of the Sun's cycle that it completes between nine to 14 years, with an average of 11 years, and we're now in the trough due to the lack of solar activity that we've been seeing.
However, experts say that the Sun's inactivity has been continuing longer than expected, which is why they describe it as a deep solar minimum.
This happened from 1645 to 1715 and is deemed as one of the popular solar events, which was called Maunder Minimum, wherein sunspots were extremely rare for a period.
How Can This Affect Us?
So, how does this affect us?
The solar cycle is believed to have an effect on Earth's weather and climate and can temporarily disturb Earth's magnetosphere.
During solar maximum, or the time when our Sun is most active, auroras are at their most spectacular and are seen more frequently, so it means that aurora seekers may not see the best of these glowing lights during this solar minimum.
In addition, the effects of the Earth's upper atmosphere on satellites that are low orbiting change during solar minimum.
Satellites tend to lose speed over time as they experience friction. These satellites may also fall back to Earth as a side-effect.
Nevertheless, it's good news for our planet as low Earth orbit is clear space junk for a while.