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It’s that time again! As I do every month, it’s time to post Space Weather Prediction Center’s monthly updated graph showing the Sun’s solar cycle sunspot activity. The graph itself can be seen below the fold.
After five months of quickly increasing sunspot activity, the Sun in December finally took a rest, with the sunspot numbers dropping down to almost exactly the solar activity scientists had expected at this time, according to their May 2009 prediction. Interestingly, this might be the first time since I began tracking the solar cycle in 2008 that the prediction actually matched that month’s activity.
The solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center have responded to these numbers and once again adjusted their prediction for the next solar maximum, adjusting their sunspot number prediction (last adjusted in mid-December) downward slightly from 99 to 96, with maximum still occurring in February 2013. This change doesn’t make that much difference, as it will still make the upcoming maximum the weakest in 80 years.
The real story here remains the question of what the Sun will do after 2013. Will sunspot activity shut down, as some solar scientists predict, or will the solar cycle continue as it has for the past four hundred years? Stay tuned to find out.