Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 108: Nov-Dec 1996

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Sunspots And Planetary Alignments

Many scientists and laymen have noticed that the sunspot cycle and Jupiter's period are both about 11 years. This must be a coincidence, because the tidal forces exerted on the sun by distant Jupiter seem far too weak to disturb the sun's internal operations. (See details in ASO9 in The Sun and Solar System Debris.)

Could it be that we are missing something, for there is some evidence that some planetary alignments also exert influence on the number of spots seen on the sun's face?

In particular, the Uranus-Neptuneearth conjunction has been investigated by B. Payne, who wrote the following in Cycles:

"Sunspots increase when two or more planets line up, an effect I have observed for more than a decade. During the last six years, Uranus and Neptune have been within a few degrees of each other. Their conjunction, which occurs every 137 years, is an ideal situation to validate the hypothesis that sunspot numbers are associated with planetary positions."

Payne's lengthy analysis is omitted, but the essence of his study can be seen in the accompanying graph. He concludes:

"The results clearly show that sunspot numbers increase markedly during Uranus-Neptune-Earth-sun alignments."

(Payne, Buryl; "Sunspot Number Changes during Planetary Alignments," Cycles, 45:146, 1995)

Comment. It will take a lot more than one such conjunction to convince the scientific community that the mere lining up of comparatively tiny planets can have any effect on those huge storms we call sunspots!

Reference. The Catalog: The Sun and  Solar System Debris, mentioned above, is described more fully at here.

Sunspot numbers during conjunctions of Earth-Uranus Sunspot numbers during the 1990 conjunctions of Earth-Uranus (June 30) and Earth-Neptune (July 6).

From Science Frontiers #108, NOV-DEC 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987