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September 27 2012

Solar maximum? Oh, you just missed it


WAITING for solar fireworks to reach a grand finale next year? Um, sorry, looks like you already missed them. Structures in the sun's corona indicate that the peak in our star's latest cycle of activity has been and gone, at least in its northern hemisphere.

The southern hemisphere, meanwhile, is on a sluggish rise to solar maximum and may not hit its peak until 2014.

This bizarre asymmetry strengthens a theory that has been bubbling among sun watchers for the past few years: our star is headed for hibernation. Having the sun's outbursts turned off for a while would provide a better baseline for studying how they influence Earth's climate.

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