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Sunspot update: The Sun continues to prove that solar scientists understand nothing

With today’s monthly update from NOAA of its graph tracking the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere, we find that the Sun continues to confound the experts. As I do every month, I have posted this graph below, with additional details to provide the larger context.

In November the sunspot count rose slightly, but remained well below the highs that had occurred through most of the first half of 2023. Yet, despite that continuing reduction in the number of sunspots, the overall amount of activity remains above the prediction of some scientists, and below the prediction of other scientists.

November 2023 sunspot activity
The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community for the previous solar maximum. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007 for the previous maximum, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The blue curve is their revised May 2009 prediction. The red curve is the new prediction, first posted by NOAA in April 2020.

The small rise in sunspots in November, compared to the steep drop in October, kept the count well above the 2020 prediction of a panel of NOAA scientists, but well below the prediction of a smaller group of dissenting solar scientists.

In fact, in the past few months all these solar scientists have been scrambling to revise their predictions in order to make the public believe they always knew what they were talking about. In April the dissenting solar scientists lowered their prediction to better match the incoming data. In October 2023, the NOAA panel raised its prediction to better match the incoming data.

Not to be outdone, a group of solar scientist in India issued their own new prediction on November 28, 2023, claiming that their new analysis of the ongoing changes in the Sun’s magnetic field tells them the next solar maximum will occur sometime in 2024, a full year earlier than expected.

These new predictions do not really have much value. It is very easy to predict the winner of a horse race when the horses are only a dozen feet from the finish line, and that is exactly what all these new predictions are doing.

What they all failed to do was predict what would happen, before the race even started. All the early predictions were wrong, and this new late prediction waited until the race was almost over before putting its bet down.

In essence, these scientists have demonstrated how little they understand the fundamentals of the solar sunspot cycle. They know it traces the eleven year cycle of the polarity flip of the Sun’s magnetic field. They know that sunspots are created by concentrations of magnetic field lines at the Sun’s surface.

What they don’t know however is more important. They do not understand the actual principles behind these processes, and why the Sun undergoes this cycle in the first place. Why does the Sun’s magnetic field flip? Why does it do it on an eleven year cycle? Why do some cycles produce a lot of sunspots, while others very few?

If you don’t understand why, you really can’t predict what will happen next, which is exactly what has been happening in the solar scientist community for the past two decades. They failed to predict the weak solar maximum in 2014, and they failed to predict this still unpredictable rise to maximum now in 2023.

Recognizing this ignorance would be the best first step in solving the problem. My impression however of this solar scientist community is they don’t do it. Instead, they make believe they know more than they do, and too often ignorant journalists accept that make believe innocently.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

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  • Max

    My response to Zimmermans last paragraph;

    Recent history suggest that being incorrect in their projections can no longer be tolerated, science must not be questioned!
    (Very soon the data will be adjusted to match the projection… Just as it is in the global warming numbers.)
    Any journalist whom questions our authority also questions the power behind that authority… They will never work again! Minions must be useful and obedient or they are canceled and replaced.
    Under the orders of the department of the “The ivy league PhD priesthood of the all knowing”. Where our motto is, “we are never wrong!”

    Meanwhile, there’s an active solar flare hitting the earth right now. Expect some beautiful northern pictures under mostly dark conditions.

  • Alex Andrite

    Dear Science,
    It is quite alright to use the word / term “Mystery” while doing your homework.
    Even to use the word in your “results”.

  • John

    I agree with Max. This post is ignorant the TheScience. If you knew and trusted TheScience from the experts then you would realize the the predictions are the correct. No where in TheScience is it allowed for anyone to even suggest that TheScience is not correct. TheScience is rightfully decided, peace be upon TheScience.

  • Eric E. Coe

    This guy claims to know what is going on:

  • Yehiel Handlarz

    Not even as good as the storefront astrologers in you neighborhood.

  • wayne

    “Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or
    failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate
    capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into
    George Orwell
    “Politics and the English Language”

  • LocalFluff

    It’ll be a double top.
    I’ve always said it will be a double-top. It will be a double-top. Do I need to repeat myself :-) It’ll be as much a double-top as the cut of the pointy haired boss of Dilbert. That curve might edge up again during the next couple of years. But it will then dive pretty steep. Lay low for a couple of years. Climb again like a spider after the rain. And enter the average of its approximate bell curve to the 11 year minimum. How is this not obvious?

    If only someone on Wall Street came up with the idea to turn this curve into a market for betting odds, I’d secure my pension within a cycle of 11 years.

    By the way. as if for no reason concerning my level of Solar Physics skills, ehum. This YT-channel about science paper FRAUD might be of interest. Nature and Science and of course many lesser magazines, publishing nonsense agains and again. Here a cut in a vid that asks the questions:

    And his YT-channel accounts for surprisingly many surprising science frauds (almost so many that I begin to suspect that he is fraudulent! ;-D ) How come the scientific community, even in physics, allow this to go on? Gallilei’s encrypted letters to Kepler were better reviewed 400 years ago.

  • Dan Niemeyer

    Responding to Wayne:
    Ecclesiastes 9:11 KJV – I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, nor yet sunspot predictions to men of Science; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

    I might have added that last part.

  • LocalFluff: Your prediction of a double-peaked maximum might be right, but it is meaningless because you have no idea why it will happen, just as these solar scientists do not know why either.

  • Max

    Local fluff!!!
    When we don’t hear from you in a while I get worried that you were caught in a “no go zone” on the wrong side of Sweden. hopefully you’re doing well, would love to hear some updates.

  • Related:


    “Co -founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore: “Moore is now a director for the CO2 Coalition, a nonprofit group that includes scientists devoted to highlighting the benefits of carbon dioxide. He is also the author of a new book titled Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom, which takes aim at what Moore described as “scare stories” that cannot be justified on the basis of scientific observation and verification.”

  • wayne

    “….nor yet sunspot predictions to men of Science…”
    Absolutely hilarious!

  • LocalFluff

    I don’t get caught in any no go zone, because I don’t go into no go zones, duh ;-)
    But I was a bit harrassed by a mental drugged zombie today, whom I learned later came into a fight with a neighbor. And last month a guy was shot dead with five bullets just at the entrance of the shopping mall 300 meters from where I live. Infornt of a hundred of witnesses, just luck the bullets didn’t hit anyone else in the crowd. Still not arrested as far as I know. Police doesn’t have time to make much of an effort for such everyday mass crimes, as they are nowadays called by local MSM propaganda.

  • LocalFluff

    Well, the Sun simply rings like a bell. There are two heliosiesmic wave frequences dominating its magnetic activity at the moment (historic times). They are a bit out of sync so they sometimes re-enforce each others, sometimes negate each other. And during the transition periods their concert form double tops. It is a phenomena that occurs in many contexts. And all those contexts are a product of the Sun or its similar parents, so it is natural to assume that it too has that habit. Especially when it actually have it, as the graphs show. The double top is widening from cycle to cycle and it depresses the cycles.

    WHY does it occur? Well, the Sun is a sphere of massive matter after all. If one hits it, it will ring like a bell tolls. Perhaps an outburst, a giant mass ejection a thousand years ago left the current harmonies in the wake of its shock wave? Like the first bubble of vapor in a kettle of boiling water reaching the surface and popping. Leaving behind rings of waves that are then reflected on the edges of the kettle and case an interferance pattern. Stuff like that happens everywhere all the time, like even inside of our own bodies here and now. It’s the phenomena that anectotically inspired Isaac Newton (the apple stuff is later made up from Biblical inspiration).

    So there’s a “why” for you. Ask any honest heilophysicist and they will tell you that there exists no credible theory about why the Sun does what it does. So any reasonable guess is a candidate, there is no look-up-answer.

  • pawn

    The harmonic oscillator is always the first into fire.

    I remember back in grad school, someone calculating the 138th harmonic term of some resonant nuclear force.

    I remember thinking “Why?”

  • Jeff Wright

    I keep wondering if Niven’s “Inconstant Moon” could come true.

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