NEWS: NASA to hold press conference on the state of the sun

This is unusual. A live media teleconference on the sun. Even more unusual is this statement:

The sun today, still featureless

The sun today, still featureless

The sun’s current state could result in changing conditions in the solar system.

As you may recall, I posted an entry about the Ulysses mission back on June 16th and the findings of a lowered magnetic field in the sun, from the JPL press release then:

Ulysses ends its career after revealing that the magnetic field emanating from the sun’s poles is much weaker than previously observed.  This could mean the upcoming solar maximum period will be less intense than in recent history.


We live in interesting times.

Dwayne Brown                                   

Headquarters, Washington                                        



DC Agle

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


Sept. 18, 2008


NASA To Discuss Conditions On And Surrounding The Sun

WASHINGTON — NASA will hold a media teleconference Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 12:30 p.m. EDT, to discuss data from the joint NASA and European Space Agency Ulysses mission that reveals the sun’s solar wind is at a 50-year low. The sun’s current state could result in changing conditions in the solar system.


Ulysses was the first mission to survey the space environment above and below the poles of the sun. The reams of data Ulysses returned have changed forever the way scientists view our star and its effects. The venerable spacecraft has lasted more than 17 years – almost four times its expected mission lifetime.

The panelists are:

— Ed Smith, NASA Ulysses project scientist and magnetic field instrument investigator, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

— Dave McComas, Ulysses solar wind instrument principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio

— Karine Issautier, Ulysses radio wave lead investigator, Observatoire de Paris, Meudon, France

— Nancy Crooker, Research Professor, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

Reporters should call 866-617-1526 and use the pass code “sun” to participate in the teleconference. International media should call 1-210-795-0624.

To access visuals that will the accompany presentations, go to:

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at:


– end –

h/t to John Sumpton


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Mr. Watts, you tease us. There is nothing to see at the link for the graphics.
What I have often wondered, though, is how the Sun moving through areas with different amounts of “dark matter” might affect the fusion reactions that generate the Sun’s energy. I believe it has been discovered recently that atomic decay seems to vary with our distance from the Sun for reasons not exactly understood. Could it be there is more “dark matter” closer to the Sun? Could that affect fusion reactions as well?
Are ice ages brought on by the solar system moving through areas with more or less dark matter and the interglacials caused when we “pop out” of those bands?
REPLY: I’m not the tease, NASA is. Note they say to check back on Sept 23rd to see the graphics…they don’t want the media conjecturing the graphics, obviously.

Steve Berry

Okay, but can someone offer a hint of what is going to be said? Four days is too long to wait! Leif, any clues?


Where is the proof for Dark Matter?
If you allow the speed of light to vary over time, the need for Dark Matter goes away. A varying C also fixes the early hot sun paradox.

Perhaps they’ll be announcing a solar credit system so operators of solar power stations impacted by the risk of declining solar output will have their investments protected. The Sun is too big to let fail! Personally, I think that instead of a yet another gov’t bailout, solar operators should be required to burn the midnight oil (so to speak) and augment their solar harvest with moonlight or even light from bright stars.

Barbee Butts

This is precisely why laypeople like myself cannot comprehend the lackadaisical attitude of SDIC concerning the accurate counting of sunspots and solar activity.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe and document an uncommon solar cycle?
If I were a solar ‘scientist’, I’d be absolutely giddy w/ excitement! Triple checking the observations, meticulously recording the data and making absolutely SURE what I was documenting (for posterity) was top quality. [I’d show up early and stay late every day-it’s that exciting!]
What do we get? The SDIC can’t be bothered to report data correctly, apparently don’t care, and pooh-pooh Anthony for expecting otherwise!! (I view the earlier brouhaha as a dreadful shame and wasted opportunity. ) Who can trust anything from SDIC? If they can’t get 1 spot counted correctly-how can they be trusted to count 100 correctly?
Of course, I am assuming that it’s easier to count to “1” than it is to count to “100”.
Thank you Anthony for your tireless and wonderful work. You, sir, are appreciated. I have two sites I check twice a day. “Drudge” and “Watts…”. If it’s not on one of these two-it’s not newsworthy.


Crosspatch, the glacial/interglacial cycles are controlled by the earth’s orbital parameters. See this reference


“The sun’s current state could result in changing conditions in the solar system.”
Okay. No mention of Earth’s climate. Of course we know the sun has no effect. We have been told so.


Since we had the no sunspots for August, followed by the decision that we did have one, does anyone know if there have been any sunspots recorded in September?

Brian H

Is there a site to check for updated info on the ice-caps on Mars…or possible effects on other planets related to the reduced solar activity?

Brian D

Very interesting times, indeed. To have the ability to closely watch the Sun from space during a very active time, and, potentially, during a very inactive time. Some theories will be canned for good, while others will stand. More will come. Science in progress.

Dan Lee

I’ve been wondering how NASA was going to save face, is this is it? Did all the childish hockey-stick and data-hiding nonsense finally push someone up top over the edge? I’m visualizing someone slamming a fist down on a desktop and saying, “All right, enough! Do we do science here or don’t we?”
Anthony, you once said that forces were moving behind the scenes on these issues, I’m hoping we’re about to see some results.
Or maybe it will be something totally different, who knows (trying to keep my hopes in check.)
Anyway, thanks for an extremely useful and educational and fun-to-read blog, I check it every day and occasionally toss an opinion in, but I don’t think I’ve ever said thanks for all the work you’re doing keeping us up-to-date.


We may need to leave Earth. We may need to do so without having a good solution for interstellar travel. We may need to contemplate intergenerational migrations lasting for thousands if not millions of years.
Or, it could be something less. It may be that there is something to the 2012 hoopla. Not the end of all things, but perhaps, the end of a particularly successful 2500 year segment of human existence. The Golden Age may be over.


Ric – you slay me. Thanks for the humor.

AGW’er s have no corner on alramism I see.

Dan Lee

Another thought, connecting some dots, here’s NASA (Hansen) contributing to a legal decision in Britain that okay’s defacing energy plants, while in the US the Democrats and Republicans have greenlighted offshore drilling and other energy projects, in joint recognition of our need for more and cheaper energy.
How’s that for bad timing on NASA’s part? Kind of leaves them out in the cold, I would think. Yeah, Hansen did it on his own time but its hard to ignore the fact that its NASA’s name that gives him all that credibility in the eyes of the public.
OTOH a news conference like this must have been in the works for quite some time, so it was probably just a coincidence…

Cathy Wilson

I sent this along to Drudge.
If this isn’t newsworthy – watt is ?

SteveSadlov (09:55:36) :

We may need to leave Earth. We may need to do so without having a good solution for interstellar travel.

At the press conerence, if you see FEMA on the stage holding a mandatory evacuation order, I think it will be time to panic. 🙂


In responce to Brian H question you can go to check daily sun spot activity by going to ask .com then type in sun cycle 24.There is a site that updates every 2 minutes.


Dan Lee
This isn’t anything new, doomsday predictions have been around since time began for humans. 2012 is not about the end of the world, actually the end of the Mayan Calendar, whereby the earth will apparently be aligned with the centre of the universe for the first time in 26000 years…something like that….apparently an interesting energy phenomenon will occur which will bring about spiritual/energy change on earth.
haha at least NASA is finally being forced to accept that the sun does rule. After all it is the solar system , not the anthropogenic system…

My source at NASA tells me NASA also intends to announce the cancellation of the follow-up mission at this time. 🙁

Trevor Pugh

Have a more readable reference at Scientific American:
We have been touching on this issue of ‘are we naturally heading toward an ice age that is being warded off by global warming’ for quite a while in these blogs. I have posted a link to a Scientific American article published in 2005 titled HOW DID HUMANS FIRST ALTER GLOBAL CLIMATE? This article offers an alternate explanation to Fred Hoyle’s meteor on demand theory, although I wouldn’t count that out as a possibility; for the last 400K years or so.
I keep coming back to this article because it provides an effective
explanation for both warming and cooling. Here are two links to the author William Ruddiman and the article I refer to.
I don’t think I can reproduce the article here as Scientific American still wants payment for it but it is more than worth the read. I offer this excerpt from his conclusions which I believe is ok to reproduce (up to you Anthony).
Implications for the Future
The conclusion that humans prevented a cooling and arguably stopped the initial stage of a glacial cycle bears directly on a long-running dispute over what global climate has in store for us in the near future. Part of the reason that policymakers had trouble embracing the initial predictions of global warming in the 1980s was that a number of scientists had spent the previous decade telling everyone almost exactly the opposite—that an ice age was on its way. Based on the new confirmation that orbital variations control the growth and decay of ice sheets, some scientists studying these longer-scale changes had reasonably concluded that the next ice age might be only a few hundred or at most a few thousand years away.
In subsequent years, however, investigators found that greenhouse gas concentrations were rising rapidly and that the earth’s climate was warming, at least in part because of the gas increases. This evidence convinced most scientists that the relatively near-term future (the next century or two) would be dominated by global warming rather than by global cooling. This revised prediction, based on an improved understanding of the climate system, led some policymakers to discount all forecasts—whether of global warming or an impending ice age—as untrustworthy.
My findings add a new wrinkle to each scenario. If anything, such forecasts of an “impending” ice age were actually understated: new ice sheets should have begun to grow several millennia ago. The ice failed to grow because human-induced global warming actually began far earlier than previously thought—well before the industrial era.
In these kinds of hotly contested topics that touch on public policy, scientific results are often used for opposing ends. Global-warming skeptics could cite my work as evidence that human-generated greenhouse gases played a beneficial role for several thousand years by keeping the earth’s climate more hospitable than it would otherwise have been. Others might counter that if so few humans with relatively primitive technologies were able to alter the course of climate so significantly, then we have reason to be concerned about the current rise of greenhouse gases to unparalleled concentrations at unprecedented rates.
The rapid warming of the past century is probably destined to persist for at least 200 years, until the economically accessible fossil fuels become scarce. Once that happens, the earth’s climate should begin to cool gradually as the deep ocean slowly absorbs the pulse of excess CO2 from human activities. Whether global climate will cool enough to produce the long-overdue glaciations or remain warm enough to avoid that fate is impossible to predict.


I know this is the wrong forum for this but I can’t let this go…
I think your comment is based on the old speculation behind DM, namely orbital speeds of galaxy clusters. However, there are numerous observations of galactic interactions that can only be explained by particles that interact via gravitation but not through EM or strong forces. The weak force may still be a possibility, though. Google the Bullet Cluster to see what I’m talking about.
Varying c over time would cause the total energy of the universe to vary over time. There is no known mechanism for that. Additionally, we have great access to data from billions of years ago, in the form of ridiculously old starlight that is finally arriving at Earth. If c did vary over time, there would be a discrepancy between expected observations of distant, old stars and nearby ones.

Jim B

Well I’m just glad the Sun is doing it’s small part to help fight global warming.

Pierre Gosselin

“Okay, but can someone offer a hint of what is going to be said?”
Allow me to speculate:
NASA will have to admit that the sun indeed plays a huge role w.r.t. climate and say the sun appears to have entered an unexpected and worrisome dormant period, and that we should expect much cooler temperatures at least through the next cycle or two (11-22 years).
But then they’ll quickly add that the AGW theory is alive and still very serious, and say something like:
“Once the suns returns to normal activity (in 12, 20 or 30 years), expect manmade global warming to resume with renewed vengeance. The need to drastically cut CO2 now is still imperative and that the future of humanity is at risk.”
Of course everyone will just laugh, and realise what a charade AGW really was, thus end up making Sarah Palin the only sensible candidate left.

Steven Hill

Everyone has it all wrong…..
CO2 is still a problem, the sun just now changed…..
rolling eyes…

Mike Kelley

I wouldn’t include say the Democrats are “greenlighting” any energy production at all. The recent so-called energy bill that the press is yapping about only allows production beyond 50 miles out and gives the states no incentive to go along. It is just a way for Nancy Pelosi and friends to appear to be helping us while still giving their envirocrit keepers what they want. They may get away with this sham due to a compliant/complicit news media.

Brian H

terry 46 (10:19:14) Thanks… actually I was looking for updated effects on other planets….i.e. has the ice cap on Mars started growing again? any effects on Saturn or Jupiter consistent with a quieter sun?


thanks terry46, the question was actually me. I found the site, I guess they only update the sunspot number at the end of the month so their stats just run through August. I put a link below if anyone wants to look at a historical list of sunspots by month going back to 1991. We had one in July, zero (or one) in August, and possibly zero again in Sept., so this is easily a 27 year low in sunspot activity.


This is very hush hush, so don’t tell anyone.
The teleconference is to announce that the planet is about to be attacked by an enormous mutant star goat. In order to protect mankind, NASA has built three space arks. The idea is that into the first ship, the ‘A’ ship, will go all the brilliant leaders, the scientists, the great artists, you know, all the achievers; and into the third, or ‘C’ ship, will go all the people who do the actual work, who make things and do things, and then into the `B’ ship will go everyone else, the middlemen. Hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants and most important of all, the climatologists.
The captain of the ‘B’ ship will be James… and we’re not talking T Kirk. He will lead the glorious departure from our doomed planet to crash… err… land on our new home Golgafrincham. That way, when the rest of us arrive, we’ll be sure to get a good haircut and know the greenhouse gasses are under control.
Douglas Adams saw the future.


Remember, three of the four participants Tuesday will be Ulysses project scientists, and they will be primarily discussing the results from the Ulysses mission.
These four may not be willing to go into any discussions about sun-climate relationships, Solar Cycle 24 forecasts, solar Grand Minima, a New Little Ice Age, etc.
Ulysses was a really big deal in solar science. “Ulysses has set the bar on solar science data collection quite high.” It was a 17-year mission that has now ended with the loss of operational capability of the spacecraft.
I’m sure they’ll have some more announcements that will be news to many.
The phrase, “solar wind is at a 50-year low” was news to me. I can’t recall ever hearing that from official US government sources.
I think those of us looking for clues to climate will just have to tune in to the audio of the news conference
and go to the graphics page
(nothing there yet – gotta wait til closer to show time)
take notes on the presentation then infer for ourselves what it means, and listen to the various experts weigh in during the days and weeks to follow.

joshua corning

This reminds me of that study that looks at carbon concentration in the atmosphere and how a study was soon to come out.
What ever happened to that study?

Fernando Mafili

Ric Werme and Dee Norris: Thanks by smiles
Leif, and now? Please

Kent Gatewood

If we have to change planets, the literature seems mixed as to whether we should take robots.


NASA will inform us that the lack of sunspot activity has been conclusively linked to climate change on earth due to man’s burning of fossil fuels. NASA is asking the Congress today to approve the emergency appropriation of $250 billion to launch a fleet of satellites to orbit between the earth and the sun. The satellites will solve the problem by opening large umbrella like devices to look like sunspots here on earth. With the sun out of the equation we can blame the next 20+ years of global cooling on man’s burning of fossil fuels….


Comparing the two graphs below, baselining from 1991 and removing the 1998 and 2006 El Nino spikes, global temps show a good correspondence with the referenced solar activity, with a noticable short lag. From this I would recommend stocking up on firewood and blankets for the next several years.

Roy Tucker

I encourage people to read “The Chilling Stars” by Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark. This was a fascinating insight into the science surrounding the solar activity/climate relationship.


So were we measuring solar wind over 50 years ago or is it the lowest in 50 years?
And somebody posted the following link:
It looks to me like Radio Flux and Geomagnetic data have also decreased in recent years.

Fernando Mafili (11:07:39) :
Leif, and now? Please
All they will be saying is that the Sun is back to where it was 100 years ago. I recall having droned on about this on this and other blogs. The 50 years they are talking about is the period covered by spacecraft measurements, but we have other ways of measuring the solar wind properties, e.g as I explained at a seminar at UC Berkeley just last Tuesday:
All solar cycle indicators we have show that the current cycle 23 was just like cycle 13, ten cycles ago. Nothing special, not a ‘new phase’, not the end of the world. Maybe just a belated acknowledgment that perhaps the sun is not at an ‘all-time high’ after all.
If the Sun is the major driver of our climate, the climate should also be back to what it was a hundred years ago. I don’t think it is.
[and don’t tell me about long delays and at the same tell me that the last few months cooling is due to the Sun]. Talk to me about the oceans instead, and their internal oscillations.


The NASA PR mentions that the solar wind is at 50-year low. Fifty years ago was 1958. Was the solar wind lower than it is now before 1958? What was used to measure solar wind in the 1950s and before?
Could it be that the solar wind is at a 100 year low, or maybe a 200 year low?

Mike McMillan

If the solar wind is at a 50-year low, that means more cosmic rays striking the atmosphere and alchemically generating carbon. New carbon, in our atmosphere, that will oxidize into even more CO2.
Be afraid.
On a lighter note, I haven’t waded thru the Hays1976 pdf (thanks Gary (09:07:45)) yet, but orbital variations affecting ice ages is a good theory, and verified by computer models. And, I might add, the modeled orbital variations don’t need any “adjustment” factors.
Given all that, we should be able to predict precisely when the next ice age will hit.

Ed Scott

Ric Werme
Perhaps an agreement with T. Boone, to construct a giant turbine farm adjacent, to the solar fields, to power giant search-lights, to shine on the solar panels, will provide a solution to the problem of lower energy output from the sun and also alleviate the darkness problem with solar power generators. This of course will necessitate massive subsidies, but not a bail-out, right?
Quite obviously, grants from the DOE will be necessary for feasibility studies, to be conducted, to ascertain the most expensive and least effective solution to the problem.


My prediction is that NASA will relate the Ulysses findings to the impact on upcoming space travel. I would not expect any admission of cooling trends being caused by the Sun’s decreased activity, just that recent decreased solar activity is “masking” AGW (per the current media template).


the sun’s solar wind is at a 50-year low
If I can get no interest / no payments until 2012, I might buy a few bags.
The sun’s current state could result in changing conditions in the solar system.
But a certain website said that when ice caps were shown to be melting on Mars, we were all overreacting….

Fred . . .

Last week NASA had to bite the bullet and admit they have been wrong for 30 years about the Antarctic Ice Sheet shrinking – they admitted that it has been growing steadily at .06%. per year. So much for those rapidly rising ocean levels Mr. Gore is so fond of.
Some consensus.
Maybe they are going to announce a bright blast of sunshine has shown them the error of their ways and they will be issuing hair shirts to Hansen et al.
Preemptive strikes against their own incompetence.


Off topic, but interesting:
“In the full-scale plan, 16 trillion lenses would be required to make up the million square miles of area of the sunshield. It is estimated that the shield would require one orbital launch every 20 minutes for about five years to be completed. The programme also investigated the use of a “coil gun” electromagnetic launcher to propel the lenses into space.
Unfortunately, Iris suffered a delayed second stage ignition at around 3,500 feet, and the mission was unsuccessful.”
The rocket doesn’t look inexpensive, there has to be some whackos with lots of money. Reminds me of the idea, playing on TV, of thousands of robot ships spraying ocean water to make clouds that would reflect sunlight and cool the horribly warm planet.

Don B

Roy Tucker– I was self-encouraged, and am on page 125 of The Chilling Stars. I like it as much as I thought I would, and others may also find it fascinating to read the details of the impediments to new ideas suffered by those who fight the popular AGW theory.
Back to the teleconference-the facts cannot be hidden forever.

Dan Lee

Mike Kelly,
Privately I agree with you, but publicly (on this forum) I prefer to avoid the politics. No point getting derailed from discussing this very interesting bit of news.

Jeff C.

Congrats Anthony! Instalanche on the way.

Kim Mackey

I think the longer this goes on, the more vindication there will be for Dr. Svalgaard’s work on polar magnetic fields and his prediction with regard to solar cycle 24. Obviously we will have at least a decade before full confirmation, but pretty soon I think Dikpati and all the other theorists predicting a large cycle 24 are going to be searching for new ideas.

Doug Janeway

Wasn’t cycle 24 supposed to start last March according to Hathaway? Then when it didn’t happen, they posted that article, “What’s wrong with the sun . . .Nothing?” Now their redacting.
Were they not aware of the decrease in solar wind speed then and that conevyor speed was 75% of normal. What about declining sunspot strength and the extended lack thereof? And, yet, “nothing is wrong with our sun.” Sounds to me like their just whistling past the graveyard.