Credit: Hinode Team; JAXA; NASA; STFC; ESA.
Cycle 23 Redux
Just when we thought it was over...Reports of a new solar cycle grabbed headlines a few weeks ago, but scientists have recently seen a blast from the past. Solar active regions associated with cycle 23 have materialized. Scientists have tagged these beasts magnetically, which is how they can be reliably identified. Solar cycles occur when the solar magnetic field flips its polarity. A similar occurrence happens on earth, but (fortunately for compass makers) not quite so frequently as on the sun, where such changes occur every 11 years. Sunspots occur in pairs, and each member of the pair has its own peculiar polarity, clearly identifying which solar cycle the spot pair belongs to. The image above is an X-ray image of the Sun by the Hinode satellite showing 3 sunspot pairs as X-ray bright sources on the X-ray dim "cool" solar photosphere. Though we're near minimum solar activity now, scientists believe things are revving up, and that the next solar maximum should occur near 2012.
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:26:05 EDT