Solar Minimum Update

Updated December 1, 2018:

Has anyone noticed anything different about the Sun? Anything unusual? Well, there’s nothing different, nothing unusual. The Sun is just going through its normal cycle. So, if you’ve looked lately, you’ve probably noticed that Sunspots are becoming rarer. The Sun goes through cycles. These cycles are measured by the number of Sunspots seen on the Sun’s surface, that is, the Earth-facing side. Each cycle lasts for about 11 years, with slight variations of time in each cycle.

The solar cycle was discovered in 1843 by Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, and using other observations, reconstructed the cycle back to 1745. Prior cycles were reconstructed from observations going back as far as Galileo and others in the early 1600’s. We are presently in cycle 24.  Right now, the Sunspot number is decreasing, and it has been for some time. Let’s look at the numbers.

Cycle 24 peaked in April, 2014 with 101 Sunspots, the weakest in a hundred years. There was only 1 day in 2014 with no Sunspots. 2015 had 0 spotless days. 2016 had 32 spotless days. 2017 had 104 spotless days. As of December 1 of 2018, there have been 199 spotless days this year, yielding a yearly percentage of 59% so far. Although this minimum part of the cycle is deepening, on November 30, the spotless Sun threw a slow moving CME out into space in our direction. It’s expected should arrive sometime on December 5th.

The minimum is expected to “peak” some time in 2019-2020. But even with this minimum, there is still activity to be observed. There is still the occasional prominence, flare or CME (Coronal Mass Ejection). And then there are the “holes” in the Sun’s atmosphere (coronal holes) that let stronger than normal streams of solar wind (charged particles), target the Earth’s atmosphere and produce those awesome auroras in the high latitudes. So if you have a solar telescope, keep watching, it’s not hopeless.

Keep checking back, we’ll keep you updated.

New Venue

So, what’s the latest IPAS news? We have a new venue. Where? Bartow, FL.
And what do we do there? Just what we do everywhere, sort of. It’s called sidewalk astronomy.

So, what is sidewalk astronomy? Sidewalk astronomy is no more than amateur astronomers, like us, setting up our telescopes in a public place (like on a busy sidewalk) and letting anyone who comes by look through the scopes at whatever we find in the night sky to see. We answer any questions about astronomy and the celestial objects we’re viewing.

Our purpose is to educate anyone interested in the basics of astronomy, let them see the wonders of the universe and hopefully, find a few new amateurs who may want to join us.

After two months at Bartow, we’re pleased to tell you that it has been a success. Many people have come by and viewed the universe through our scopes and enjoyed the view.

So come on out to Bartow on the third Friday of each month, visit the many vendors there to see what they have to offer and visit us and see the universe up close. It will be an experience you won’t forget. See you there.

Lunar Eclipse, January, 2019 in Lakeland, FL

I suspect that Lunar and solar eclipses occur more frequently than a lot of people think. But what I think doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that there will be a total Lunar eclipse in January of 2019, January 20-21 to be precise. The really good news for us here in Lakeland is that the total eclipse will be visible from Lakeland, Florida, from start to finish. I hope you all are as excited about this as I am. If not, maybe this will help spur you on. We, the Imperial Polk Astronomical Society, will be doing a Lunar Eclipse Watch that night.

Here are the details:
Florida Southern College will host the event for the night. The college is located at 111 Lake Hollingsworth Dr., Lakeland, Florida. We will do a presentation beginning at 7:00 pm in the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. We’ll tell (and show) you how and why eclipses happen and what to expect from this one. After the presentation, we’ll have time for a short Q & A session. Then we’ll move outside where we’ll have telescopes set up to view some of the wonders of the universe before the eclipse begins. We’ll view galaxies, far, far away, nebulae in our own galaxy, and our own solar system planets. Then, when the eclipse begins, we’ll “focus” our scopes on the Moon and track it through the stages of eclipse. We’ll be there from start to finish.

So, when does it start and end? The presentation starts Sunday, January 20 at 7:00 pm sharp. The eclipse starts at 9:36 pm. The eclipse ends Monday, January 21 at 2:48 am. Obviously, Lunar eclipses occur at night. One good thing about this one is that Monday, the 21st is a legal holiday, so maybe you’ll have the day off.

Our thanks to Florida Southern College.

If you have any questions, you can contact us right here through our website.