Astronomers have observed fewer sunspots during the peak of the sun's 11-year cycle than in the past 100 years. In previous cycles, sunspots have caused solar flares that could damage satellites, cause power grid blackouts and disrupt communication. Sunspots were expected to increase during this year's solar maximum, but so far, "It's the smallest maximum we've seen in the Space Age," said David Hathaway of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

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