Just two days after sunspot 983 was reported, it has now disappeared. They just aren’t sticking around like they used to. This is yet another indication of the bottomed out solar minima we are in.
It will be very interesting to see if the cycle 24 predictions by Hathway at NASA for an even stronger cycle will materialize.
Though there does seem to be more discussion of a weak cycle 24 than a strong one as of late. Personally, I think this graph of Average Planetary magnetic index (Ap) is quite telling in the step that occurred in 2005. From the data provided by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) you can see just how little magnetic field activity there has been. I’ve graphed it below:
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What is most interesting about the Geomagnetic Average Planetary Index graph above is what happened around October 2005. Notice the sharp drop in the magnetic index and the continuance at low levels.
From this story on space.com where they talk about the opposing views solar scientists have for cycle 24 they offer some opinions. NOAA Space Environment Center scientist Douglas Biesecker, who chaired the panel, said in a statement:
[…] despite the panel’s division on the Sun cycle’s intensity, all members have a high confidence that the season will begin in March 2008.
We shall soon see if they are correct, March starts this Saturday.
Nature will truly be the final arbiter of this argument.
UPDATE: Jeff C writes
I thought you might find this chart interesting. Since sunspot cycles overlap and there is no clear start/stop, the “start” of the new solar cycle is usually defined as the smoothed sunspot minimum between cycles (as opposed to the appearance of the first reversed-polarity spot). Although different definitions are sometimes used, this seems to be the most common and accepted variation.
The enclosed chart shows the transition from cycle 22 to cycle 23 back in 1996. It is interesting how the first new cycle sunspots appeared over a year before the commonly accepted May 1996 start date of the new
I’m unsure of the cycle start date definition used by Douglas Biesecker, but if it is the commonly accepted definition, he will be way off. It will be interesting to see if they claim the appearance of a few reversed cycle sunspots count as a “start”. If so, then cycle 23 actually started back in March 1995 and is 13 years old.
Click for a larger image