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.

We don’t need no solar maximum

It is that time again! Today, March 4, NOAA released its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, covering the period of February 2013. As I do every month, I am posting this latest graph, with annotations to give it context, below the fold.

Once again, the Sun has shown a complete inability to produce sunspots, at the very moment it had been predicted to be rising towards its maximum in the sunspot cycle. The numbers in February plunged from the tepid rise we saw in January to below the crash we saw in December. Right now, when the Sun is supposed to peaking, it is instead producing sunspots in numbers as low as seen in 2011, at the very end of the last solar minimum.

February Solar Cycle graph

For reference, the green curves in the graph show the two original predictions of the solar scientist community from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

These continuing low numbers have caused the scientists at the Marshall Space Flight center to change their prediction for the solar maximum once again, the sixth time they have done so in the last seven months. With each change they have been steadily lowering their high prediction of 76 from September 2012 to their new prediction of 66, predicted to occur this upcoming fall.

Since January 2012 these scientists have changed their prediction 20 times, with numbers ranging from 59 to 99. That they have changed it again, so close to actual maximum, once again illustrates how much a guess this so-called prediction really has been all along.

Meanwhile, other solar scientists are trying to explain the Sun’s weakness now by suggesting that the Sun’s maximum might actually be double-peaked, with the first peak having occurred back in late 2011 and the second peak upcoming later this year. Maybe so, but they are only basing this prediction on past solar cycles, not on any basic knowledge of how the sun works. For all we know, the Sun hit its maximum more than a year ago, and is now ramping down to another solar minimum.

As I have noted every month on this webpage since 2011 as well as on John Batchelor and in my writing for Sky & Telescope since 2009, the Sun is not behaving as expected. Instead, it is acting as if it is losing the ability to produce sunspots and is heading for its first Grand Minimum since the 1600s — a multi-decade-long period when no sunspots are produced. Nor is this just my opinion. A considerable number of solar scientists have also come to this conclusion.

Watching the Sun behave over the next few years should be quite interesting. And watch the climate too! In the past, a Sun without sunspots has always been accompanied by a climate that has cooled, significantly.

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  • “Federal budget cut through sequestration. Women, children, minorities, Sun hardest hit.”

  • wodun

    Been seeing a few articles about sun spots lately and none of them reflect any research into the accuracy of these predictions. One even called the number of sun spots energetic. Maybe I can find some links.

  • Almost certainly the articles you are seeing reflect this propaganda:

    Sunspots and the danger of crying wolf

  • jwing

    Out, out damn spots. They will always find a way to blame humans and castigate those who don’t agree. They’ll ultimately resort to saying that the sun is mad at us for hurting its little child, the earth and punishing us. They willfinally give up their pseudoscientific propagandistic guise to show their true selves as the gia-loving, tree-worshiping amoral pagans they really are.

  • Scott

    This is all George Bush’s fault!

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