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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Predicting Sunspots

Predicting Sunspots

Things that make you go hmmmm...

Based on previous research by Mausumi Dikpati, NOAA scientists recently found a more accurate method of forecasting sunspot cycles. The specifics of how these sun cycles affect earth's climate are still up for debate, but some interesting patterns have been observed. For example, a series of unusually cold periods in the planet's history corresponds with low sunspot activity cycles. According to Dikpati's findings, we're in for a doozie:

The sun occasionally hurls hailstorms of energized particles at speeds of up to several million miles an hour. These can threaten astronauts' health and the electronic gear on which they rely.

Now, scientists say they have devised a more accurate way to forecast the onset and relative strength of the sun's stormy "seasons," or sunspot cycles, which peak roughly every 11 years. Some liken the approach to seasonal hurricane forecasts on Earth - but with potentially much higher accuracy.

...Until now, sunspot forecasts were based mostly on statistics drawn from historical cycles. The new approach incorporates the sun's basic physical processes that underlie the cycles.

...For the record, the team's research indicates that the next sunspot cycle will be 30 to 50 percent stronger than the last one, not weaker as others have forecast. The cycle will start late in 2007 or early in 2008, six to 12 months behind schedule, and it should peak in 2012, the researchers say. In testing their model against the past 12 solar cycles, the team reproduced "forecasts" with better than 98 percent accuracy.

Interestingly enough, 2012 is the end of the Mayan calendar:

The turn of the great cycle is conjectured to have been of great significance to the Maya, but does not necessarily mark the end of the world. According to the Popol Vuh, a sacred book of the Maya, they were living in the fourth world. The Popol Vuh describes the first three worlds that the gods failed in making and the creation of the successful fourth world where men were placed. The Maya believed that the fourth world would end in catastrophe and the fifth and final world would be created that would signal the end of mankind.

The last creation ended on a long count of Another will occur on December 21, 2012, and it has been discussed in many New Age articles and books that this will be the end of this creation or something else entirely. However, the Maya abbreviated their long counts to just the last five vigesimal places. There was an infinitely larger number of units that was usually not shown. When the larger units were shown (notably on a monument from Coba), it is expressed as, where the larger units are evidently supposed to be 13s in all larger places. In this age we are only approaching, and the larger places are nowhere near the 13s that would match the end of the last creation.

This is confirmed by a date from Palenque, which projects forward in time to, which will occur on October 13, 4772. The Classic Period Maya obviously did not believe that the end of this age would occur in 2012. According to the Maya, there will be a baktun ending in 2012, a significant event being the end of a 400 year period, but not the end of the age.

Some people believe 2012 is the end, though, a notion which runs eerily parallel to the Christian end-times mythology. Curious stuff.

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