Saturday, 2 March 2013

Solar Cycle Update: Twin Peaks?

March 1, 2013: Something unexpected is happening on the sun.  2013 is supposed to be the year of Solar Max, the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Yet 2013 has arrived and solar activity is relatively low.  Sunspot numbers are well below their values in 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent for many months.

The quiet has led some observers to wonder if forecasters missed the mark. Solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center has a different explanation: 
"This is solar maximum," he suggests. "But it looks different from what we expected because it is double peaked."

Twin Peaks (splash)
A new ScienceCast video explores the puzzling behavior of ongoing Solar Cycle 24. Play it

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.

More - Link >>> http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/01mar_twinpeaks/

Source: NASA Science News.

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