sun

Solar activity has dramatically increased over the last month causing many to believe the Solar Max is not finished producing fireworks. Slooh, the community observatory, will go live from Prescott, Arizona to examine these recent eruptions on Wednesday, February 12th at 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST / 18 UTC. Viewers can watch the broadcast live on Slooh.com or by downloading the free Slooh iPad app. Slooh host and astronomer Bob Berman, along with community observatory partner, Matt Francis, will provide live commentary as the event unfolds. Questions can be asked during the broadcast via Twitter by using the hashtag #solarmax.

This Solar Cycle has become much maligned in the eyes of disappointed Solar astronomers who have waited since 2000 for the next solar maximum, and endured through the deepest, weirdest solar minimum ever seen by a living researcher from 2005­2007. The next expected maximum in 2011 didn’t materialize. Nor did it come in 2012. Finally it was expected in 2013, probably May, after the long­delayed cycle #24 finally began (wimpily) in 2008.

But 2013 brought a “maximum” that had less solar activity than any of our lifetimes. It was a low, wimpy “max” that had increasing numbers of solar experts thinking that the sun has entered a prolonged period of inactivity. In short, this feeble maximum will now be followed by another deep minimum, and then perhaps yet a further weak maximum in 2024 or 2025. The effect on Earth would be to cool us down, and partially compensate for anthropogenic climate warming. In short, the Sun is doing us a favor, by choosing now to hold off on its normal level of violence.

However, the current maximum may not be over. Perhaps we are going to experience a “double peak” of activity” and the real fireworks for this cycle #24 are still in front of us! If so, the effects of large solar storms could be devastating to certain elements of daily life as satellites and other electronics are very vulnerable to solar activity.

Right now, new solar storms are appearing on the Sun’s left side, and marching one after another across the Sun’s face. The current crop will likely produce at least one M­class solar flare. And while the Sun’s present activity is officially categorized as “moderate” this is still enough to produce spectacular auroras at high latitudes. Not to mention it is an eye­ opening change from all the “low activity” days we’ve had during this past year of supposed “solar max.”

In short, this is a VERY exciting time to be watching the Sun, with implication for our planet in various ways.