Sunspot numbers have progressively dropped so far this century when they started of at around the 120 mark. The end of 2008 has seen al all time low so far this century of 2. Boulder forecast charts estimate a steady yearly increase to around 80 by the second half of 2013. (www.solarcycle24.com)
Solar flux has virtually remained at a steady 70 during December and is forecast to remain the same until the end of January. The Boulder A Index peaked at 12 on 2nd January where it will remain until the end of the month. The Boulder K index, after starting in January at 4, will remain at 2 from the 4th January onwards. This will mean steady conditions throughout the rest of January.
First Meteors Of 2009
The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaked on Jan. 3rd when Earth entered a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1. The timing of the encounter favored observers in Western North America and across the Pacific Ocean who could see dozens to hundreds of meteors during the dark hours before sunrise this Saturday morning. Visit http://spaceweather.com for a sky map and more information.
Space Weather Radio
For the new year, Spaceweather.com is pleased to announce a new service: Space Weather Radio, broadcasting live "sounds from space" around the clock. Today you can listen to the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas. When a meteor passes over the facility--ping!--there is an audible echo. (Activity should be high during the Quadrantid meteor showers) In the near future we'll be adding broadcasts of solar radio bursts and VLF signals from the ionosphere. The streams are punctuated by Daily Space Weather Updates .
2008. Blankest Year Of The Space Age
Astronomers who count sunspots have announced that 2008 is now the "blankest year" of the Space Age. As of Sept. 27, 2008, the sun had been blank, i.e., had no visible sunspots, on 200 days of the year. To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go back to 1954, three years before the launch of Sputnik, when the sun was blank 241 times.
"Sunspot counts are at a 50-year low," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. "We're experiencing a deep minimum of the solar cycle." (www.nasa.gov)
“The sun is behaving normally”. So says NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. "There have been some reports lately that Solar Minimum is lasting longer than it should. That's not true. The ongoing lull in sunspot number is well within historic norms for the solar cycle."
This report, that there's nothing to report, is newsworthy because of a growing buzz in lay and academic circles that something is wrong with the sun. Sun Goes Longer Than Normal Without Producing Sunspots declared one recent press release. A careful look at the data, however, suggests otherwise. But first, a status report: "The sun is now near the low point of its 11-year activity cycle," says Hathaway. "We call this 'Solar Minimum.' It is the period of quiet that separates one Solar Max from another."
During Solar Max, huge sunspots and intense solar flares are a daily occurrence. Auroras appear in Florida. Radiation storms knock out satellites. Radio blackouts frustrate hams. The last such episode took place in the years around 2000-2001.
During Solar Minimum, the opposite occurs. Solar flares are almost nonexistent while whole weeks go by without a single, tiny sunspot to break the monotony of the blank sun. This is what we are experiencing now.
Hathaway has studied international sunspot counts stretching all the way back to 1749 and he offers these statistics: "The average period of a solar cycle is 131 months with a standard deviation of 14 months. Decaying solar cycle 23 (the one we are experiencing now) has so far lasted 142 months--well within the first standard deviation and thus not at all abnormal. The last available 13-month smoothed sunspot number was 5.70. This is bigger than 12 of the last 23 solar minimum values."
In summary, "the current minimum is not abnormally low or long." (Nasa.gov)
Thanks to Mike Terry and Ken Fletcher for regular updates