Solar Cycle 24 – Introducing Low Contrast Sun Spots

| May 15, 2009


A very interesting change has taken place on the Sun. As readers of this blog know, I have been watching the Sun for some time, especially with regards to the deep solar minimum we currently have between sunspot cycle 23 and cycle 24.

If you look at the image above, you might not see any sunspot activity. It looks like the rest of the visuals we have had from the Sun for the past couple of years, devoid of activity. This is caused by changes deep within the Sun that are part of the normal cycle, albeit one that we have probably not witnessed since we began observing the sun with such precision.

On closer inspection, there are some tiny discoloration just to the left of the center of the image. In fact the agencies that monitor the sun assigned this cluster of solar “plaque” a sunspot number and began to track it. While some scientists may moan that we are now counting any smudge on the sun as a spot, there are some important things happening here.

If we take that section of the image, and enlarge it, we can see it more clearly:


To my eye it seems that the “freckles” are really bordering a circular region of magnetic flux, just as if that circular region were a sunspot. The reason that sunspots look dark is that the are colder than the surrounding surface of the sun. So when we look at them using the filters needed to prevent going blind, they seem as dark areas on the surface of the bright sun.

In some ground breaking work, Drs. Livingston & Penn have been observing that over the decade, the contrast of the spots has been decreasing. That is to say that the temperature of the spots themselves are going up.

What exactly does this mean to any of us? No one knows for sure, but it’s a chance to better understand the physics behind the largest source of energy for our planet,

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Category: Main, Space

About the Author ()

Bruce Henderson is a former Marine who focuses custom data mining and visualization technologies on the economy and other disasters.

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