Image Credit: SDO

The past couple of days have been weird, the Sun has gone quiet. We are currently in the middle of solar maximum, which is the time during the sun’s 11 year cycle that our home star is suppose to be extremely active. The image above was taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on Friday (07/18/14) and there isn’t a sunspot in sight.

OK, technically there is “a tiny smidgen of brown just right of the center where a small sunspot appears to be developing” in this picture. Personally, I’m not entirely convinced I see it. However, Thursday was a completely spotless day, so it’s still very quiet. So quiet that some solar scientists have started calling this the “All Quiet Event.”

Tony Phillips, who started that name and spends most of his day studying the fireball in the sky, said on his website SpaceWeather.com that the calmness is weird, but it’s not worrisome. “To have a spotless day during solar maximum is odd, but then again, this solar maximum we are in has been very wimpy.”

This is, by far, the calmest solar maximum we’ve ever seen since the start of the space age. It’ll probably be the weakest in the last 100 years by the time we’re done. Because the spotlessness falls within the already calm solar maximum, it’s not completely unexpected. Phillip continued to say, “It all underlines that solar physicists really don’t know what the heck is happening on the sun. We just don’t know how to predict the sun, that is the take away message of this event.”

Alex Young, who works for the Goddardf Space Flight Center and who is also a heliophysicist, noted that we don’t know enough to say what is usual or unusual when it comes to the Sun, by saying, “We’ve only been observing the sun in lots of detail in the last 50 years. That’s not that long considering it’s been around for 4.5 billion years.”

Young has a point, but this solar maximum has still caught scientists by surprise.


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