This image shows the sunspot numbers rising and falling through September 2000. The solid white line is the mean sunspot number prediction through the year 2006. You can see October 2000 is definitely near solar maximum.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

Ulysses Going Strong During Solar Maximum
News story originally written on November 2, 2000

The Ulysses space probe has begun to investigate the Sun during solar maximum. In September of 2000, Ulysses began to creep around the underside of the Sun. Ulysses has passed this way before, but during solar minimum.

"Ulysses has been making continuous observations of the Sun and heliosphere for the last 10 years," said the U.S. project scientist for Ulysses, Dr. Edward Smith of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "The scientists involved are still as enthusiastic as ever and are looking forward to discovering lots of new things as the Sun acts up."

Just what does Dr. Smith mean by the Sun acting up? Well, the Sun has an 11 year cycle from solar minimum to solar maximum and back to solar minimum. During solar minimum, the Sun is generally quiet, i.e., there is not a lot of solar activity. But during a solar maximum, there can be lots of activity! There are more sunspots during solar maximum and more likelihood of solar flares, prominences and coronal mass ejections. This activity can cause storms near the Earth that can damage our satellites, disrupt electronics on Earth, confuse animals or create awesome auroral displays.

The instruments aboard Ulysses studied the solar wind, the magnetic field of the Sun, the coronal layer of the Sun, and the make-up of the heliosphere during solar minimum (mainly 1994-1996). It will now fill in the gaps with data from a solar maximum period.

Ulysses is now observing the South pole region of the Sun. Its unique orbit allows it to do this. Ulysses sees the high solar latitudes, as far as 80 degrees North and South. That would be equivalent on Earth to traveling from the northern tip of Greenland to Antarctica in the south.

Last modified October 30, 2000 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

1999--A Year in Review...

It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more

STS-95 Launch: "Let the wings of Discovery lift us on to the future."

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more

Moon Found Orbiting Asteroid

A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more

U.S. is Fed Up with Russia

Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection

During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more

Mother Nature's Air Conditioning

J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service has referred to forests as the "heart and lungs of the world." Forests reduce soil erosion, maintain water quality, contribute to atmospheric humidity and cloud...more

Planetary Alignment 2002

In late April through mid-May 2002, all five naked-eye planets are visible simultaneously in the night sky! This is includes Mercury which is generally very hard to see because of its proximity to the...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA