NASA predicts a long cold space winter due to decreased solar activity

NASA said sunspot activity on the surface of our galaxy’s sun has diminished so much that record low temperatures could soon hit space. The result is cooler space weather which does not affect the Earth's climate. Martin Mlynczak at NASA’s Langley Research Center clarified that there was no relationship between temperatures in space and that on Earth, saying "There is no relationship between the natural cycle of cooling and warming in the thermosphere and the weather/climate at Earth’s surface.

We see a cooling trend,” said Mr. Mlynczak, “High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy … If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.” He went on to describe how solar minimum can enhance the effects of space weather, disrupt communications and navigation, and even cause space junk to "hang around".

Mr. Mlynczak and his colleagues recently introduced the "Thermosphere Climate Index" (TCI), which measures how much heat nitric oxide (NO) molecules are dumping into space. The results come from the SABER instrument onboard NASA’s TIMED satellite, that monitor infrared emissions from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO). By measuring the infrared glow of these molecules, SABER can assess the thermal state of gas at the very top of the atmosphere, a layer researchers call “the thermosphere”. When the thermosphere cools, it shrinks, making the radius of the Earth's atmosphere smaller. This means it can delay the natural decay of space junk, resulting in a more cluttered environment around Earth.

Mr. Mlynczak said, “SABER is currently measuring 33 billion Watts of infrared power from NO. That’s 10 times smaller than we see during more active phases of the solar cycle,” and “The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet.”