While this is not the first time the Sun has done this, it is quite interesting and a bit scary. Don’t get me wrong, sunspots do vanish but the rate at which they are doing so is alarming.
You see, every 11 years the Sun goes through a solar cycle. This being a period in which it has the most and least activity. Currently, the Sun is headed towards its minimum and during that period it will be producing fewer sunspots. While it is expected, we did not expect the rate in which they are doing so. The number of sunspots has dropped far lower than we thought it would in this amount of time.
NOAA has been as per usual keeping up with this and wrote as follows:
“Current solar cycle 24 is declining more quickly than forecast. The smoothed, predicted sunspot number for April to May 2018 is about 15; however, the actual monthly values have been lower. Will solar minimum be longer than usual or might solar cycle 25 begin earlier? Leading solar and space science experts will convene a meeting in the coming years and attempt to predict solar cycle 25.”
“The “official” solar cycle forecast includes the month, year, and intensity of that maximum (peak, average sunspot number). The consensus forecast is the result of collaboration by a solar cycle prediction panel of solar and space scientists from around the world. Typically, the panel considers all new, relevant research results, observation trends, and model predictions available when the panel is convened.”
“Just like hurricane season forecasts, solar cycle predictions have improved; however, there are still notable deviations in prediction versus actual activity. The previous solar cycle prediction panel’s forecast for solar cycle 24 called for a maximum average sunspot number of 90 to occur in May 2013. After looking at the actual sunspot numbers and solar activity, it was determined the solar cycle 24 maximum was reached in April 2014 and peaked at an average sunspot number of 82. While the peak value was within the expected range of error, the maximum occurred significantly later than the panel’s prediction.”
You see normally in the past month or so we would have seen a number of sunspots close to 15 but we haven’t noticed hardly any at all. The Sun itself has been blank over 50 percent of the time in 2018. Sure, the sun goes through a lot of different things and this isn’t any reason to panic just yet but it is something we really need to figure out.
Maybe this is nothing big or maybe it is, only time will tell. What do you think? Could we potentially be headed for a mini ice age? I sure hope not!