sun

Slooh will broadcast a live Solar special focusing on the sudden emergence of hyperactivity attributed mostly to solar spot AR 1944. This sunspot is credited with creating the Solar Flare that grounded the planned launch of a International Space Station Supply rocket managed by Orbital Science Corps. The broadcast will feature live feeds of the sun from the Prescott Observatory run by Matt Francis who warned of such activity in an earlier broadcast. Slooh astronomer Bob Berman and Francis will provide live expert commentary during the 30 minute broadcast. The Solar Special will start at 10:00 AM PST/ 1:00 PM EST/ 18:00 UTC on Wednesday, January 15th.

During this past year of the long­ awaited and delayed “solar max,” the Sun has been strangely inactive. As things stand, this new solar cycle, number 24, will display the quietest, least ­active maximum of the past century, which is particularly dramatic since it follows the deepest and most extended solar minimum (of outgoing cycle 23) witnessed in the lifetimes of today’s solar researchers.

Prior to its widespread headline­ generating emissions of X­-class flares, Slooh broadcast the initial appearance of the very powerful storm region AR 1944, which was ten times the diameter of our planet Earth, as it rotated into sight around the Sun’s left or eastern edge. Since it takes one week for a storm to travel from near the solar limb to just slightly to the right of the center of the Sun’s disk, where its billions of tons of high­speed plasma can follow a trajectory to reach Earth, Prescott Director Francis correctly noted that our world could be affected starting January 8 or 9. Now, additional if smaller storms following in AR 1944’s path have materialized and are worthy of exploration. Could this sudden flurry of activity herald the start of a “second maximum” or double­peaked phenomenon ­­ or it is merely a temporary eruption of enhanced solar activity?

Says Berman, “Researchers are excited and a bit dumbfounded by the odd behavior of the Sun since the last peak 14 years ago. There is increasing speculation that the nearest star might have already entered a deep, extended era of reduced solar activity. No one in the field is ignorant of the dramatic cessation of virtually all solar storms from 1645 to 1715, accompanied by extreme cold here on Earth, and widespread hardship. It remains unlikely that the Sun is on the verge of becoming that extreme; nonetheless at the back of our minds flit the possibility that the Sun’s strangeness will not be transient. On Wednesday, we will review the consequences of that 17th century “Maunder Minimum” and see how a present­day version might affect our world.”

The real­time narration will accompany Wednesday’s live solar telescope views on SLOOH.com.