Shah Jahan ruled the Mughal Empire from 1628 to 1658. He is probably best remembered for erecting the Taj Mahal, built in memory of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal and considered to be one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World." The period of his reign would come to be known as the golden age of Mughal architecture.
But though Shah Jahan's reign was sunny, toward the end of it, the planet became less so. He did not know it at the time, but 1645 -- the year he built his famous Pearl Mosque in Fort Lahore -- would be the beginning of a 70-year period of diminished solar activity as evidenced by the reduction of the appearance of sunspots. At the same time, the Earth experienced a cooling that was known as the "Little Ice Age."
Known as the Maunder Minimum after the solar astronomer Edward W. Maunder, this period was marked by the extreme decrease of sunspots. During a normal 30-year period, there are up to 40,000 sunspots. During the Maunder Minimum, however, astronomers observed only 50. Scientists are not certain whether the solar slowdown and the era's chilly weather were connected.
But now, according to a recent article on ScienceDaily.com, NASA has a powerful new tool to help figure this out. The Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM), which will be onboard the Glory satellite when it launches in the fall, will provide scientists with the most accurate readings of solar radiation ever taken. These findings will help better understand the sun's effects on climate change.
But why did the sunspots disappear during Shah Jahan's golden reign? In Persian, Shah Jahan means "King of the World." Perhaps the sun took some issue with that.
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