THE BLANK SUN: The Sun is blank. No sunspots have appeared for the last 33+ days, giving the Sun the appearance of a giant orge billard ball. This is a sign that Solar Minimum is underway. Earlier this year, a panel of experts from NOAA and NASA predicted that the solar cycle would reach its nadir sometime between July 2019 and September 2020.

The current stretch of spotless suns is consistant with their forcast.

What happens when sunspots vanish? For one thing, solar flares stop happening. No big exsplosions means no shortwave radio blackouts and fewer geomagnetic storms. Also the Sun dims. Sunspots are sources of extreme ultravioolet radiation. Without sunspots, EUV levels decrease, causing Earth's upper atmosphere to cool and contract. Satellites and space junk stay in orbit longer as aerodynamic drag subsides. 

During this phase of the solar cycle, the solar wind slows and the Sun's magnetic field, shields down! This allows extra cosmic rays from deep space to penetrate the solar system. Indeed, recent high altitude balloon flights show increase radiation in Earth's atmosphere. Extra cosmis rays can trigger lightning, alter the electro-chemistry of the upper atmosphere, and boost dose rates on commercial airplane flights. 

Solor Minimum won't last forever. Forcasters expect sunspot numbers to increase after 2019-2020, climaxing in a new Solar Maximum around 2023-2026.