Updated October 19, 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 October 19 of 2018, there have been 166 spotless days this year, yielding a yearly percentage of 57% so far. After 6 days of sunspots, we are now back to 0. Not long ago, we saw small groups either come into view from the far side or just “pop up” and not last long enough to rotate off the Western limb before disappearing. This last group just up and disappeared the same way.
The minimum is expected to “peak” some time in 2019-2020. But even with this minimum, there is still activity to be observed. There are still the occasional flares and CME’s (Coronal Mass Ejections). 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.