The best collection of sunspots in recent memory made its way across the solar disc in early July. For solar observers, it was a rare treat in what has been a fairly quiet solar max.
The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle, during which the number of sunspots climbs to a peak before settling down for solar minimum. According to some experts, solar activity is at its maximum for the current cycle right now — though overall 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.