Earlier this week NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center published its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle. As I do every month, I’ve posted the newest graph below, showing the continuing slow rise in sunspots (blue/black lines) in comparison with the consensis prediction made by the solar science community in May 2009 (red line).
In February the sunspot count finally recovered from its wimpy showing in December. In addition, the sun has been quite active in recent weeks, more active than it has been in years. What this means, however, for the upcoming solar maximum remains unclear, though it still seems likely that the next maximum will be the weakest in more than 200 years (see the graph on this page). The newest prediction for the next solar maximum, from solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center, also predicts this, and the sunspot numbers we are seeing are still in line with that new prediction.
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.