Last month, the biggest sunspot of the current solar cycle (and by some accounts, the largest in 24 years) crossed the solar disc. And now it’s back. Sunspot AR2192 (now renamed AR2209) is just now re-emerging on the Sun’s eastern limb. Although much diminished from its previous appearance, it’s still big enough that I can make it out with non-magnifying eclipse glasses. Whether or not it manages to recapture some of its past glory remains to be seen.
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 Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, and key member of the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel, the long awaited peak of the current solar cycle finally arrived this past summer. That means, in theory at least, we should begin to see a gradual decline in the number of sunspots.