This amazing photo of the Sun -- taken by astrophotographer John Chumack through a filter that renders it blue, and would probably make a really good tool if you ever needed to defeat Superman -- shows some of the dozens of sunspots that have been flaring up on the surface of the Sun over the past few days. Chumack snapped some pictures through a couple different filters, and you can actually see the sunspots -- which show up as white spots in this image -- more clearly in the photos below. While you're at it, you can get a look at new video -- courtesy of NASA -- that will get you as up close and personal as you can be with the Sun and still not be vaporized. What can we say, we just couldn't resist leading with a bright blue picture of the Sun.
Recent reports presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting suggest that the sun may be heading into a period of less magnetic activity with fewer sunspots. Some proponents of this theory believe that the next solar minimum (a normal period of decreased solar activity) may be particularly long, lasting for several decades.Analysis of a missing jet stream in the solar interior, fading sunspots on the sun's visible surface, and changes in magnetic activity of the corona and near the poles suggest that an inactive period may be on the way. But the studies presented are a long way off from receiving scientific consensus. In fact, as Andrew Revkin of Dot Earth points out, there those in the astronomical community who think the evidence presented does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that there will be a long solar minimum. So then media reports of a solar minimum that would solve the climate change crisis, come as a bit of a surprise.