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Lowdown on the sun

The solar wind is at its lowest in 50 years, and the unusually long lasting solar minimum offers hints about the wind’s origin.

5:37pm, September 23, 2008

Every 11 years, the sun gets the doldrums. Solar storms are fewer and the strength of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles blown from the sun, declines. But new spacecraft observations have now gotten the true lowdown: The current solar minimum is the lowest — and one of the longest — recorded in the past 50 years, since modern measurements began

This period of low solar activity has already lasted six months longer than the last solar minimum, which was in 1994 and 1995.

The sun’s current state suggests tha

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