After the August 21st sunspot debacle where SIDC reported a spot and initially NOAA didn’t, mostly due to the report from the Catania Observatory in Italy, we have another similar situation. On September 11th, a plage area developed. Here is the SOHO MDI for 1323UTC:
Note that in the large versions of both the above images, you’ll see a tiny black speck. That’s NOT the “sunspot” but burned out pixels on the SOHO CCD imager.
To help you locate the area of interest, here is the SOHO magnetogram for the period, as close as one is available to the above image time. It shows the disturbance with the classic N-S polarity of solar cycle 23 close to the equator:
The Catania Observatory in Italy included it on their daily sketch, as barely visible:
Click for a larger image
By contrast, the Mount Wilson Observatory in California did NOT show this on their daily drawing:
Click for larger image
The Catania photosphere image for that period did not show any disturbance:
But the Catania chromosphere image did show the disturbance:
At the time our resident solar physicist Leif Svaalgard postulated and then retracted:
Leif Svalgaard (17:40:36)
Please welcome cycle 23 region 11001.
And then a few minutes later went on to say:
Leif Svalgaard (18:35:44)
The region died sometime between 17h and 20h UT. One may wonder why this Tiny Tim was elevated to an ‘active region’. Perhaps NOAA is getting nervous now after all the brouhaha and don’t want to be accused of ‘missing’ spots…
Anyway, it is now gone.
And Robert Bateman added:
Robert Bateman (21:45:42)
So let’s recap:
We have a disturbance that shows up briefly, then disappears in a couple of hours, some observers call it a spot, others do not, or their time of observation (Mt. Wilson for example) was perhaps past the time of visible activity. The “spot” itself is even less pronounced than the sunspeck that was elevated to sunspot status on August 21st, yet NOAA assigns it a spot status this time, where on August 21st they did not, only doing so AFTER the SIDC came out with their monthly report on September 1st. See my report about that event here and the follow up email I got from SIDC when I questioned the issue.
Now 100 + years ago would we have recorded this as a spot? Doubtful. It is most pronounced on imagery from satellite or specialized telescopes. Would the old methods such as a dark filter or projection used 100 years ago have seen this? As I pointed out before, we now have a non-homogeneous sunspot record mixing old techniques and instrumentation with new and much more sensitive instrumentation, and more coverage. Yet even with this we have disagreement between observatory reports.
How long does a sunspeck (or sunspot) have to be present before it ranks as countable? What standards are in place to ensure that observers use the same type of equipment and techniques to count spots? Is there any such standard? From the perspective of the public and laymen at large, it seems that there’s some randomness to this science process.
In my opinion, science would be better served if these observational questions and the dataset inhomogeneity is addressed.
I’m sure Leif will have some commentary to add.
And as Robert Bateman writes in comments: So, we are still having these SC23 bubbles popping up. Why won’t this cycle give it up? The $64k question.