Sunspot animation of Sunspot 1019.  Credit: Spaceweather.com

Newsflash: Sunspot Appears!

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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OK, I admit – the headline is a little over the top. But the sun has been so quiet of late, that even a small sunspot can be exciting. There’s been some debate whether this period of extreme solar calm is truly unusual, or just part of the natural cycle. But solar cycle models never predicted this low amount of activity. “It turns out that none of our models were totally correct,” admitted Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, a member of an international panel of experts that are now trying to predict what the next solar cycle will hold. “The sun is behaving in an unexpected and very interesting way.”

The panel is predicting that the next cycle, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78.
Sunspot cycles

Right now, the solar cycle is in a valley–the deepest of the past century. In 2008 and 2009, the sun set Space Age records for low sunspot counts, weak solar wind, and low solar irradiance. The sun has gone more than two years without a significant solar flare.

“In our professional careers, we’ve never seen anything quite like it,” says Pesnell. “Solar minimum has lasted far beyond the date we predicted in 2007.”

For 2009, the number of “spotless” days are 123, as of May 31, which is 82%.

There’s a little sign of action on the sun, though. In recent months small sunspots and “proto-sunspots” are popping up with increasing frequency. Enormous currents of plasma on the sun’s surface (“zonal flows”) are gaining strength and slowly drifting toward the sun’s equator. Radio astronomers have detected a tiny but significant uptick in solar radio emissions. All these things are precursors of an awakening Solar Cycle 24 and form the basis for the panel’s new, almost unanimous forecast.

According to the forecast, the sun should remain generally calm for at least another year. This calm has a greater affect on Earth’s atmosphere than you might imagine. With low solar activity, the Earth’s atmosphere can cool and contract. Space junk accumulates in Earth orbit because there is less aerodynamic drag; hence the increase in the number of collision event “alarms” for the ISS and shuttles. The calm solar wind whips up fewer magnetic storms around Earth’s poles. Cosmic rays that are normally pushed back by solar wind instead intrude on the near-Earth environment. There are other side-effects, too, that can be studied only so long as the sun remains quiet.

But the sun is a very chaotic place, and even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather from solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) said Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. So we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Sources: [email protected], SpaceWeather.com


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Anaconda
Member
Anaconda
June 1, 2009 4:54 PM

“It turns out that none of our models were totally correct,” admitted Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, a member of an international panel of experts that are now trying to predict what the next solar cycle will hold. “The sun is behaving in an unexpected and very interesting way.”

Could this be because Science doesn’t understand the Sun’s mechanics and phenomenon as well it claims to?

And if such is the case, as the above statements by Dean Pesnell indicate, does that open up the possibility that alternative hypothesis need to be considered?

Such would seem to be the case.

Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
June 1, 2009 5:18 PM

I was expecting Anaconda to show up…
Anaconda:

Could this be because Science doesn’t understand the Sun’s mechanics and phenomenon as well it claims to?

You mean like you don’t understand what electromagnetism is? wink

And if such is the case, as the above statements by Dean Pesnell indicate, does that open up the possibility that alternative hypothesis need to be considered?

Like what? That the Sun is a huge burning ball of coal, drawn on a cart pulled by some bloody celestial horse? razz

Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
June 1, 2009 5:21 PM

NUTS! I forgot to close the bold tag after the word “you”.

Nereid
Member
Nereid
June 1, 2009 5:25 PM

I am unfamiliar with Ms (Mr?) Science; would you be so kind as to provide more info on this person, Anaconda?

Could this be because Science doesn’t understand the Sun’s mechanics and phenomenon as well it claims to?

Specifically, in which papers, published in relevant peer-reviewed journals, may an interested reader find the details of such claims?

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
June 1, 2009 6:31 PM
“It turns out that none of our models were totally correct,” That’s why they’re called models, after all… “Could this be because Science doesn’t understand the Sun’s mechanics and phenomenon as well it claims to?” I don’t think ‘science’ would claim to understand the Sun to a greater extent than the evidence warrants. More than likely, there are quite a few facets of it’s behaviour that aren’t understood at all. Far more likely in this case however would be the fact that Solar Dynamics is fundamentally chaotic – the solar cycle is a semi-stable ‘attractor’ in a way, but not some sort of permanent fixture. And even if we did understand it all perfectly, this does not necessarily… Read more »
Anaconda
Member
Anaconda
June 1, 2009 6:37 PM
The post is straightforward and self-explanatory (paraphrase): “We don’t know why all this is happening the way it is.” Ivan3Man states: “You mean like you don’t understand what electromagnetism is? ” You mean like “modern” astronomy won’t acknowledge it takes electric current to generate magnetic fields? (And, yes, electron spin, or ‘ordered movement’ within a bar magnet is directly related to electrons and their “movements”.) But we aren’t talking “bar magnets” in deep space, are we? We’re talking large magnetic fields, and therefore, large movements of electrons (hint, electric currents). Or do you mean like “modern” astronomy’s faulty ideas about “magnetic reconnection”? Nereid, your comment isn’t probative. The post quoted Pesnell, since these events are “unexpected” and “none… Read more »
Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
June 1, 2009 8:12 PM

Anaconda:

You mean like “modern” astronomy won’t acknowledge it takes electric current to generate magnetic fields?

You mean like EU/PC proponents won’t acknowledge that it takes energy to generate an electric current? What is the source of that energy, Anaconda?

Nereid
Member
Nereid
June 1, 2009 8:25 PM

What “faulty ideas” are you referring to here, Anaconda?

Specifics please, backed up by references to primary materials.

Or do you mean like “modern” astronomy’s faulty ideas about “magnetic reconnection”?

Oh, and what is your source for this absurd assertion?

You mean like “modern” astronomy won’t acknowledge it takes electric current to generate magnetic fields?

ND
Member
ND
June 1, 2009 9:55 PM

Anaconda: “And if such is the case, as the above statements by Dean Pesnell indicate, does that open up the possibility that alternative hypothesis need to be considered?

Such would seem to be the case.”

Such as?

Is there any model that from the EU or PC that you know of that explains all the observations we have so far of our sun better? There is a good amount of historical observation to work with. The current model predictions are being compared with ongoing observations. Are there sunspot predictions made by EU or PC models that we can be compared with observations and thus tested?

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
June 2, 2009 2:47 AM
Far more likely in this case however would be the fact that Solar Dynamics is fundamentally chaotic Chaotic behaviour of solar radio flux: Abstract The presence of a chaotic attractor is investigated in time series of 10.7 cm solar flux. The correlation dimension and the Kolomogorov entropy have been calculated for the time period 1964–1984. The values found for the Kolmogorov entropy show that chaos is indeed present. The correlation dimension found for high solar activity is 3.3 and for low solar activity is 4.5, indicating that a low-dimensionsion chaotic attractor is present in the time series analysed. So solar flux is indeed a chaotic system among the (I believe) majority of possible dynamic systems, with an attractor… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
June 2, 2009 2:54 AM

Eh? A ( is on the loose.

That can’t be good because (what will happen if the open clauses are closed (which reminds me of a really funny scifi short novel (in which subplots opened up (all the time (until))))))) they all must come to a closure.

Nereid
Member
Nereid
June 2, 2009 3:41 AM
Yes, Anaconda, my comment about Ms Science was intended to be humorous. But underlying it is a very serious point. And that is that what you wrote reflects a view of science that seems radically different from my own (and, very likely, most other people’s). And as I have said, many times, unless and until we can find a way to have a discussion that at least acknowledges these deep differences, we will continue talking past each other. Now wrt the specifics: “the possibility that alternative hypothesis need to be considered” is what happens all the time in science, it is its modus operandi! Perhaps you did not know that before? If so, now you do. Perhaps you… Read more »
damian
Member
June 2, 2009 4:48 AM

Sol; It is beautiful without freckles.

I do find it humorous that we worry when it spews plasma at us and then we fidget like expectant children when it’s quiet and sedate.

The last time I saw a good Aurora Australis was in the mid 80’s. What a sight. Hoping Sol will put on another show soon.

Damian K

DrFlimmer
Member
DrFlimmer
June 2, 2009 5:13 AM
@ damian You should ask a few Canadians what they think about “beatiful Auroras in the 80’ies” (yes, they are in the northern hemisphere, but what the heck ). The auroras were so beautiful that they forced parts of Canada to be without electrical power for some days. And calmness is not always a good sign – could be “the calmness before the storm”. Much like in 2003 (was it autumn 2003?) when in a period of relative silence suddenly two major storms hit us in a week. One day the sun was as calm as usual and the other day all hell broke loose. So, take care with the sun @ Anaconda: Sorry for correcting you, but:… Read more »
ND
Member
ND
June 2, 2009 5:49 AM

DrFlimmer,

thaks for throwing “that goes beyond meaningless words”. That’s what I was going for. There is active science going on regarding predicting sunspots. Models are being compared against observations and models are being refined. Something that Anaconda keeps complaining should be happening. Well, Anaconda, are there any sunspot predictions from any EU/PC models? Do they fit observations better than models talked about in the article?

DrFlimmer
Member
DrFlimmer
June 2, 2009 5:58 AM

Correction:

NO! This is fundamentally wrong! Just read an undergraduate textbook about quantum mechanics (now need for QED) and you will find out why…

That should read “(NO need for QED)” wink

damian
Member
June 2, 2009 6:20 AM

Hehe, Electrical Faults are a small price to pay for seeing an Aurora. The human experience of this phenomenon is also worthwhile.

On average Lighting would cause more disruption worldwide then Auroras. I wonder if Lighting storms are also stronger during active solar periods however?

Damian K

TerraNova
Member
June 2, 2009 1:10 PM

“May 29, 2009: An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots.”

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/29may_noaaprediction.htm

ND
Member
ND
June 3, 2009 8:12 AM

Dem crickets sure are loud!

Anaconda
Member
Anaconda
June 5, 2009 12:16 PM
@ ND: Maybe, you missed it, but solrey has presented a detailed hypothesis that explains sunspots in prior posts. It’s called the ‘Electric Sun’ hypothesis. Sunspots are just one of many observed aspects of of the Sun that the Standard Model doesn’t explain. Here are some more: it is true that the ‘Electric Sun’ hypothesis is the most controversial aspect of Electric Universe theory. But there are 17 observations of the Sun that the standard model doesn’t well explain or explain at all: heavy elements solar spectrum neutrino deficiency neutrino varibability solar atmosphere differential rotation by latitude differential rotation by depth equatorial plasma torus the sunspots sunspot migration sunspot penumbra sunspot cycle itself magnetic field strength the even… Read more »
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