Sunspots Alive Alive Ho

This has been a long wait, but perhaps this is the beginning of the long awaited sunspot surge. It was getting a bit off putting to check in and see na-na. The activity should ramp up quite briskly now. The only question is if it will be overly active or not. Since most are predicting quiet, I may as well toss my mental coin and predict very active this time.

One unanswered question and possibly unanswerable question over sunspots has been the validity of the Maunder minimum that took place between 1645 and 1710. That took place while our observing technology was in it infancy and a period of mostly somewhat smaller spots could have been easily missed that could have been counted later. A lot of disquiet has been expressed over this issue over the years and should not be forgotten as many commentators are prone to do.

We are apparently getting a better sense of the sun’s magnetic field structure and perhaps we are closer to predictive ideas, which is interesting. This present cycle shows us though that right now we are still bystanders.

Anyway, it is good to see that group of sunspots show up to the party.

Jul 6, 2009 04:19 PM in

Sunspot activity ramping up out of deep slumber

John Matson

It wasn't quite fireworks, but the sun's activity, coming out of a long, deep lull, picked up a bit over the July 4th weekend. A group of sunspots, which mark intense magnetic activity, appeared in the past few days—a patch larger and more populous than any yet this year, according to data from the
Space Weather Prediction Center. As we reported in April, this year got off to a slow start in terms of sunspots, which typically wax and wane in an 11-year cycle. The minimum of that cycle brought an exceptionally quiet 2008, one of the least active sunspot years of the century.Solar activity can have significant impacts in Earth's neighborhood, some 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) away. The so-called space weather that the sun stirs up can fry satellites, corrode pipelines and knock out electricity on massive scales. Joseph Gurman of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, U.S. project scientist for the sun-circling Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), characterized the current upwelling as "not unusual for this phase of the solar cycle," as the sun's activity begins to awaken. The region, Gurman says, has burbled with low-level flares, but "it hasn't given up anything huge yet." For an idea of what might happen the next time the sun does kick up something huge, see our August 2008 feature on solar superstorms and the communications infrastructure.

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