The Sun’s recent article brings a warning from a scientist who fears that sunspot activity on the surface of our star has been dropping so low that record low temperatures could be soon setting in.
“We see a cooling trend,” says Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center.
“High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold,” he continued.
A solar minimum could enhance the effects of space weather, disrupt navigation and communications and also cause junk to hang around, according to NASA.
The Sun reports that Mlynczak and his colleagues have recently introduced the “Thermosphere Climate Index” (TCI), which measure how much heat nitric oxide (NO) molecules are dumping into space.
The results came from the SABER instrument on NASA’s TIMED satellite that monitors infrared emissions from CO2 and NO.
The thermosphere could soon cool
Measuring the infrared glow of these molecules, SABER can assess the thermal state of gas at the top of the atmosphere. This layer is called by researchers the thermosphere.
When this cools, it also shrinks and it makes the radius of the Earth’s atmosphere smaller. In other words, it can delay the natural decay of space junk which could result in a more cluttered environment around our planet.
“Right now, it is very low indeed,” Mlynczak told Space Weather.
“SABER is currently measuring 33 billion Watts of infrared power from NO. That’s ten times smaller than we see during more active phases of the solar cycle.”
“The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet,” Mlynczak explained.
“We’re not there quite yet,” he said about the record cold, highlighting that this could happen in a few months.
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