- Associated Press - Thursday, August 26, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - Scientists say the lack of solar activity is causing one of the highest layers of the atmosphere to shrink.

That may sound scary, but they say it actually can be good news for satellites. It means the satellites can stay in orbit longer because they have less drag from the gasses they encounter.

Of course there’s also a downside. It also means space junk orbiting the Earth can remain up there longer.

According to the study, published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Geophysical Research Letters, the sun’s energy output was unusually low from 2007 to 2009. During that period the atmospheric layer called the thermosphere _ from 55 miles to 300 miles above the Earth _ cooled and shrank.