2019 may set a Space Age record. This year, the sun has been blank (no sunspots) for 262 days, including the last 25 days in a row. If the streak continues for only 6 more days, 2019 will break the Space Age record for spotless suns.
The previous record-holder is 2008, when the sun was blank for 268 days, making the Solar Minimum of 2008-2009 the deepest of the Space Age.
Solar Minimum is a normal part of the 11-year sunspot cycle. The past two (2008-2009 and 2018-2019) have been long and deep, making them “century-class” Minima. To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go back to 1913 – more than 100 years ago – which had 311 spotless days.
What are the side-effects of Solar Minimum? On one hand, solar flares and geomagnetic storms subside, making it harder to catch Northern Lights at mid-latitudes. Space weather grows “quiet.” On the other hand, cosmic rays intensify. The sun’s weakening magnetic field allows more particles from deep space into the solar system, boosting radiation levels in Earth’s atmosphere. Indeed, this is happening right now with cosmic rays nearing a Space Age record.