The sun is in the pits of the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century. Weeks and sometimes whole months go by without even a single tiny sunspot. The quiet has dragged out for more than two years, prompting some observers to wonder, are sunspots disappearing?
In 2009, cosmic ray intensities have increased 19% beyond anything we've seen in the past 50 years," says Richard Mewaldt of Caltech. "The increase is significant, and it could mean we need to re-think how much radiation shielding astronauts take with them on deep-space missions.
This is an amazing discovery! There is an arc-shaped region in the sky that is creating a large amount of ENAs, showing up as a bright, narrow ribbon on the maps. Before the IBEX spacecraft was launched, scientists used models to predict the ENA pattern across the sky. These models predicted variations of only tens of percents across the sky—in contrast, IBEX observes variations that are literally hundreds of percents over small angles in the sky. In other words, we are not only seeing ENAs in an unexpected pattern, we are seeing many more ENAs from small regions than we thought we would.