If you missed the peak of the current solar cycle, you're not alone. Solar maximum -- the period of time when solar magnetic storms rage -- is apparently a no-show this time around, and likely to be even milder in the next 11-year cycle to come.
That forecast is welcome news for owners and operators of satellites, power plants and polar-flying aircraft, all of which can be impacted by solar storms. Even scientists see a silver lining in this year's mini solar max.
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"You might think that having a small cycle is a bit of a disappointment to us, but it's quite the contrary," said solar physicist David Hathaway, with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
"The small cycle -- the smallest that any of us have seen -- puts us in a new regime that allows us to test our theories and our knowledge of how the sun works and reveals new things that the sun is doing," he said.
The current solar max is the quietest cycle in 100 years. Scientists suspect it may be part of a longer-term, poorly understood secondary cycle that puts the sun in a relative stupor about once every 100 years or so.