Updated: Will Solar Cycle 24 Maximum Be Weakest in 100 Years and Go Into Grand Minimum without Sunspots?

“Sunspot magnetic fields are dropping by about 50 gauss per year. If we extrapolate this trend into the future, sunspots could completely vanish around the year 2015.”

- Matt Penn, Ph.D., National Solar Observatory (NSO), Tucson, Arizona

Sunspots were visible to the human eye as the sun set on September 25, 2011 (left side of sun). Image © 2011 by Adrian J. Scott.
Sunspots were visible to the human eye as the sun set on September 25, 2011 (left side of sun). Image © 2011 by Adrian J. Scott.

November 14, 2011 - Sun Prominence One of Biggest Ever Seen.

“I can't help but wonder what could possibly come next since we are still over a year away from the forecasted Solar Maximum (in mid-2013)?”

- Stephen Ramsden, Solar Photographer

Above:  Biggest wall of plasma that many solar astronomers have ever seen photographed on November 11, 2011, by Stephen Ramsden, Atlanta. Earth superimposed for size comparison.  Below:  There is also a dark filament of magnetism stretching more than 621,371 miles (1 million km) around half the sun. Will it produce a Hyder flare? See:  Spaceweather.com.
Above:  Biggest wall of plasma that many solar astronomers have ever seen photographed on November 11, 2011, by Stephen Ramsden, Atlanta. Earth superimposed for size comparison.  Below:  There is also a dark filament of magnetism stretching more than 621,371 miles (1 million km) around half the sun. Will it produce a Hyder flare? See:  Spaceweather.com.

 

November 6, 2011 - Largest Sunspot Since 2005.

“It's still growing. The size is what blows me away.”

- Jess Whittington, Space Weather Prediction Center, Boulder, Colo.

The largest sunspots since 2005 are now visible from the Earth. 1339 (top center) is the largest of several sunspots that have been slowly rotating to face the Earth since November 3, 2011. Sunspot 1339 is 136,000 miles across. That's 17 times the Earth’s diameter of 8,000 miles. Sunspot 1339 erupted on November 3, with an intense X1.9 solar flare. Nov. 4 image by César Cantu, Monterrey, Mexico.
The largest sunspots since 2005 are now visible from the Earth. 1339 (top center) is the largest of several sunspots that have been slowly rotating to face the Earth since November 3, 2011. Sunspot 1339 is 136,000 miles across. That's 17 times the Earth’s diameter of 8,000 miles. Sunspot 1339 erupted on November 3, with an intense X1.9 solar flare. Nov. 4 image by César Cantu, Monterrey, Mexico.

Sunspot 1339 has a Beta-Gamma Delta magnetic configuration and could produce further M-Class flares. Two new sunspots rotated into view Saturday on the eastern limb and were assigned the numbers 1341 and 1342. A third sunspot rotated into view Sunday morning and was numbered 1343. Sunspot 1338 recently released two small C-Flares.


October 27, 2011 - Sun's Strong October 24th CME

Provoked Auroras Over 33 States.

Earth's intense October 25, 2011, geomagnetic storm provoked by the sun's strong coronal mass ejection (CME) the day before created bright auroras in a band (yellow) that dropped down from Canada over the United States as far south as Louisiana. This image created by Paul McCrone at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center used October 25, 2011, 0140 GMT, visual and infrared data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's F18 polar orbiter.
Earth's intense October 25, 2011, geomagnetic storm provoked by the sun's strong coronal mass ejection (CME) the day before created bright auroras in a band (yellow) that dropped down from Canada over the United States as far south as Louisiana. This image created by Paul McCrone at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center used October 25, 2011, 0140 GMT, visual and infrared data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's F18 polar orbiter.

Spaceweather.com reports that “many observers, especially in the deep south, commented on the pure red color of the lights they saw. These rare all-red auroras sometimes appear at low latitudes during intense geomagnetic storms. They occur some 186 to 311 miles (300 to 500 km) above Earth's surface and are not yet fully understood.”   See DMSP and Spaceweather.com.

 

October 24, 2011 - Intense Solar CME Today
Compressed Earth's Magnetic Field.

“The sky was brightly illuminated by auroras this evening in Norway.
The photo with yellow sky was taken at 19:20 UT right after the most extreme compression of the magnetosphere.”

- Geir Øye, Orsta, Norway

Spaceweather.com reports that a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field today, October 24, at 1800 UT (2:00 pm EDT). Goddard Space Weather Lab says the impact caused a strong compression of Earth's magnetic field, allowing solar wind to penetrate all the way down to geosynchronous satellite orbit for a brief period between 19:06 UT and 19:11 UT. Image © 2011 by Geir Øye. See Spaceweather.com.
Spaceweather.com reports that a coronal mass ejection (CME)
hit Earth's magnetic field today, October 24, at 1800 UT (2:00 pm EDT). Goddard Space Weather Lab says the impact caused a strong compression of Earth's magnetic field, allowing solar wind to penetrate all the way down to geosynchronous satellite orbit for a brief period between 19:06 UT and 19:11 UT. Image © 2011 by Geir Øye. See Spaceweather.com.

Updated November 22 / Original October 30, 2011 Huntsville, Alabama - The third week of October 2011, solar physicists gathered in Sunspot, New Mexico, for the first in a series of three workshops to try to figure out what is happening in our sun. After nearly three years without sunspots leading into current Solar Cycle 24, physicists wonder if the sun is doing something differently, perhaps winding down into what is called a Grand Minimum where for decades the sun would not have sunspots.

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