The Solar Flux charts have shown a sharp increase in sunspot activity since mid November and by the end of November, average sunspot numbers have actually risen to 95 for the first time since 2003. This has even exceeded the predicted peak forecast for the first quarter of 2013. http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/
Solar activity was at very low levels on 19 December and increased to low levels from 20–24 December, and finally ending the period (25 December) at moderate levels. Region 1376 was the most active group with frequent B– and C–class flare production until 25 December when new Region 1387 began producing multiple C–class flares and one M–class flare. On 22 December at 0208 UTC, Region 1381 produced a C5 flare associated with weak Types II and IV radio sweeps and a faint CME, determined to be non–geoeffective. Region 1386 produced a C5/Sf flare at 0839 UTC. Region 1376 produced a long–duration C4 flare on the west limb at 1236 UTC associated with a non–Earth–directed CME. On 25 December at 1816 UTC, Region 1387 produced an M4/1N flare that was accompanied by Type II and Type IV radio emissions. A slight proton enhancement was observed on 25 December and achieved a max flux of 3 pfu at 0135 UTC. More information can be found at: http://www.windows2universe.org/sun/solar_activity.html
Solar activity is expected to be at low to moderate levels until 31 December when Region 1387 is forecast to rotate off the disk. Activity is expected to return to low levels with a slight chance for isolated M–class activity for the remainder of the period. No proton events are expected at geosynchronous orbit. The greater than 2 MeV electron flux is expected to be at normal to moderate levels during the period. Geomagnetic field activity is expected to be at active levels from 28–29 December due to CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) arrivals. Diminishing effects from said CMEs will have brought geomagnetic field activity to unsettled levels by 30 December. Mostly quiet conditions were predicted for 31 December, 3–4 and 7–23 January. Activity is expected to be at predominately quiet to unsettled levels 1–2 and 5–6 January due to recurrent coronal hole high speed streams. Although radio blackout warnings have been issued at the end of December, reception conditions are predicted to be good during the quiet periods. ( http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/ )
2012 Meteor Showers
The next major meteor shower will be the Quadrantid shower, which is expected to peak after midnight on the morning of January 4, 2012. This shower favours northerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. If the peak happens as predicted – at 0700 to 0800 UTC, means eastern North America might be in a good position to watch the 2012 Quadrantid shower. Predicting the peak and the intensity of a meteor shower is always a tricky business, though. No matter where you live, the best time to watch is before dawn on January 4. Best months of the year for meteor scatter are August, October, November, December, and early January. Actually, anytime of the year is good. Sometimes certain dates are just better than others, due to the occurrence of meteor showers. Average peak daily time for night time showers: 0500 to 1200 local time (There are a handful of daytime showers that almost rival the big night time showers and the only way you can be aware of them is to do some research of when they occur.) Best frequencies for meteor scatter: 50MHz to 100 MHz. (The entire 88 to 108MHz band is usable for meteor scatter dxing.) General distance of reception is 600 – 1200 miles. Receiving satisfactory meteor skip signals depends on where you live, what type of equipment you are using, and availability to the peak times of the day ( http://earthsky.org/astronomy–essentials/earthskys–meteor–shower–guide ) Links to these articles can be found at http://www.jameswelsh.org.uk/ .
Thanks to Ken Fletcher and Mike Terry for regular updates during 2011