Happy St.Pattys Day from NASA & SOHO.
This photo comes from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and shows us Solar Cycle 23 year by year in the Extreme Ultra Violet (EUV). This cycle began in 1996 (Back / Left) and worked up to a perfect maximum in 2001 (Large / Center) and closed out in 2006 (Back/ Right) which ended Solar Cycle 23. The Solar Cycle as we should all know works on regular 11 year cycles where it works from relatively calm to the great years of Solar Maximum. Solar Max and the surrounding years can typically cause great Solar Storms which give people around the world great light shows in the form of Aurora Borealis (For the Northern Hemisphere) and the Aurora Australis (For the Southern Hemisphere).
Right now we are in the peak year for Solar Cycle 24 and it has been busy but all in all extremely underproductive with less than expected activity. The following report comes from NASA Science News (link below).
Conventional wisdom holds that solar activity swings back and forth like a simple pendulum. At one end of the cycle, there is a quiet time with few sunspots and flares. At the other end, Solar Max brings high sunspot numbers and solar storms. It’s a regular rhythm that repeats every 11 years.
Reality, however, is more complicated. Astronomers have been counting sunspots for centuries, and they have seen that the solar cycle is not perfectly regular. For one thing, the back-and-forth swing in sunspot counts can take anywhere from 10 to 13 years to complete; also, the amplitude of the cycle varies. Some solar maxima are very weak, others very strong.
Pesnell notes yet another complication: “The last two solar maxima, around 1989 and 2001, had not one but two peaks.” Solar activity went up, dipped, then resumed, performing a mini-cycle that lasted about two years.
The same thing could be happening now. Sunspot counts jumped in 2011, dipped in 2012, and Pesnell expects them to rebound again in 2013: “I am comfortable in saying that another peak will happen in 2013 and possibly last into 2014,” he predicts.
NASA Science News On Solar Cycle 24: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/01mar_twinpeaks/
NASA / SOHO Main Site: http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/home.html
NASA SDO Main Site: http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/
NASA Solar Physics Solar Cycle Page: http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtml