In today’s weather update, Suspicious Observers makes an interesting comparison between the Sun’s recent earth facing quiet and the Maunder Minimum, as recorded in the book The Heavens and Their Stories published in 1908.
The Maunder minimum period of sunspot inactivity occurred between 1645 and 1710 and corresponded with “the little ice age” in Europe, according to this science encyclopedia entry.
More about the Maunder Minimum:
Although sunspots were observed telescopically in 1611, [Galileo observed sunspots] it was not until 1843 that an amateur German astronomer, Heinrich Schwabe, noticed a periodic rise and fall in their numbers. That it took over 200 years for astronomers to notice something so seemingly obvious is some cause for wonder, but it may be partly explained by the nearly complete absence of sunspots for 70 of those years, between 1645 and 1715.
For reasons not yet understood, the solar cycle operated at a greatly reduced amplitude during that time. Evidence suggests it did not cease entirely, but the sunspot number—an index representing the total level of sunspot activity at a given time—during the late 1600s was reduced by a factor of 10-20 from its typical value during “normal” cycles. This perplexing aspect of the sunspot record was formally pointed out by the astronomers F. W. G. Sporer and E. H. Maunder in 1890, and it is now known as the Maunder minimum.