Jasper Dark Sky Festival

Solar Max is Here

After a long delay, the current sunspot cycle has reached its peak.

Seronik-June 10 2014 Sun

Several sunspot groups dot the solar surface in this June 10 image. Courtesy Gary Seronik

According to Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, and key member of the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel, the long awaited peak of the current solar cycle has finally arrived.

The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle, during which the number of sunspots climbs to a peak before settling down for solar minimum. But not all solar maximums are created equal — even the cycle’s duration can vary from nine to fourteen years. The relative quiet of the current cycle (cycle 24) is likely a feature of normal, long-term variations.

How do we know that the peak has finally arrived? There are a number of indicators. As Pesnell summarizes, “The sun’s magnetic field has flipped; we are starting to see the development of long coronal holes; and, oh yes, sunspot counts are cresting.”

The take-home message from this is that from now on, the number of sunspots will gradually start to decrease. So if you have a telescope equipped with a safe solar filter (and only then), there’s no time like the present to check in on ‘ol Sol.

Here is a NASA video discussing the current solar maximum, the so-called solar Mini-Max:

Categories: Solar System
One comment on “Solar Max is Here
  1. Jim Striegel says:

    Is there a correlation between our current comparatively quiet solar cycle — the solar “mini-max” — and the cessation of Earth’s mean temperature rise over the past (nearly) 20 years?

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