Welcome Back Sunspots!
Two sunspots appeared on old Sol last week just as Earth’s orbit ushered in the Autumnal Equinox. Two sunspots showing up at once hasn’t happened in more than a year, and over 80% of the days in 2009 have been "sunspotless" during this deepest solar minimum in a century.
Spaceweather.com had a great picture of the first sunspot that appeared, taken by astrophotographer Peter Lawrence. Lawrence said there was a lot going on around the new sunspot. "The spot’s dark core is surrounded by active fibrils and a swirling magnetic filament that gives the region a nice 3D appearance."
The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower. 2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year’s 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days: plot. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.
Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year’s 90 days (87%). It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: "We’re experiencing a very deep solar minimum," says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center."This is the quietest sun we’ve seen in almost a century.
Check out http://www.spaceweather.com/ for more (and new images) of the new sunspots.
About the Author
David Reneke, one of Australia’s most well known and respected astronomy educators and lecturers, has over 40 years experience in astronomy with links to some of the world’s leading astronomical institutions.
David is the Editor for Australia’s Astro-Space News Magazine and is now affiliated as a writer and publicist for the prestigious ‘Australasian Science’ magazine.