Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Ramping way up!

The monthly update of the solar cycle graph produced by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center was released yesterday. I have posted the graph below the fold.

The fast ramp up to solar maximum is continuing. For the fifth month in a row the Sun’s sunspot activity leaped upward. Not only has the sunspot activity once again exceeded the prediction for this particular time period, the activity is shot way above the solar maximum peak predicted for several years hence. This behavior is far different then what we’ve seen during the just completed long and deep solar minimum, when the Sun consistently underperformed the predictions for sunspot activity. Now it appears to be outperforming the predictions.

I should mention that it is not unusual to see a fast ramp up like this. The Sun routinely ramps down from maximum slowly, and then ramps up quickly. What makes this interesting is how the ramp up has suddenly made the Sun far more active than predicted.

Interestingly, the the solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center have not adjusted their prediction for the next solar maximum, as they have for the past three months. At this moment they still predict a peak sunspot number of 89 for the next solar maximum, occurring in May 2013. This would make the upcoming maximum the weakest in 80 years.

November sunspot graph

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

One comment

  • Rene Borbon

    Interesting that this could be the lowest solar maximum in 80 years. I enjoy following these reports!

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *