(Gary Seronik)

A Spotted Sun

Even during a weak solar maximum, the show must go on.

Although the Sun may be in the midst of the weakest solar cycle in a century, there are currently several groups of spots visible. If you have a telescope equipped for safe solar viewing (and only then), now is a good time to check in with ol’ Sol. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had this many sunspots dotting the solar disc.

Sun: 22/10/13 - by Gary Seronik
This photo of the Sun was captured on October 22 with a 66mm refractor telescope equipped with a specialized white-light solar filter. (Gary Seronik)

The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle, during which the number of sunspots climbs to a peak before settling down for solar minimum. In theory at least, solar activity is at its maximum for the current cycle right now — though sunspot numbers have been very low. Not all solar maximums are created equal, however, and the relative quiet of this one is likely a feature of normal, long-term, cycle-to-cycle variations.