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THE SUN IS GETTING BRIGHTER

The year 1978 marked the television premiere of "Fantasy Island" as well as the Bee Gees' hit "Stayin' Alive."

The world has become a brighter place since then. At the very least, the sun has brightened, research suggests.

A new study indicates that the sun has gotten brighter by about 0.036 percent each decade since 1978. The brightening sun may be responsible for at least a small part of the global warming observed over the past few decades, wrote Richard Willson in a recent issue of the journal Science.

Other scientists have implicated changes in the sun's brightness as a factor in Earth's changing climate, but they haven't agreed on how much the sun is brightening and what effect it is having on Earth. Researchers need to monitor the sun for at least an 11-year sunspot cycle, in order to subtract out the dimming that occurs when sunspots grow across the sun's surface.

Willson, of Columbia University's Center for Climate Systems Research in Altadena, Calif., recently spliced together records of the sun's brightness from three different scientific instruments. He used data from a less sensitive instrument, the ERB experiment aboard the Nimbus 7 spacecraft, to fill in a gap between two instruments named ACRIM I and ACRIM II.

-- Dallas Morning News

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