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January 14, 2008
An artist's concept of the Ulysses spacecraft.
Ulysses Flyby of the Sun's North Pole (NASA Feature)

Consider it a case of exquisite timing. Just last week, solar physicists announced the beginning of a new solar cycle and now, Jan. 14th, the Ulysses spacecraft is flying over a key region of solar activity--the sun's North Pole.

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Image Credit: ESA


January 4, 2008
A new high-latitude sunspot has emerged marking the beginning of Solar Cycle 24.

Solar Cycle 24 Begins (SpaceWeather.com)

Solar physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. The wait is over. A magnetically reversed, high-latitude sunspot emerged today. This marks the beginning of Solar Cycle 24 and the first step toward a new solar maximum. Intense solar activity won't begin right away. Solar cycles usually take a few years to build from solar minimum (where we are now) to Solar Max (expected in 2011 or 2012). It's a slow journey, but we're on our way!

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See also "Solar Cycle 24 Begins" (Science@NASA Feature) to learn more about the solar cycle and the potential consequences of increased solar activity.

Image Credit: SOHO/MDI


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