September 24, 2013
This is the height of the 11-year solar cycle, the so-called solar maximum. The face of the Sun should be pockmarked with sunspots, and cataclysmic explosions of X-rays and particles should be whizzing off every which way.
Instead, the Sun has been tranquil, almost spotless.
As W. Dean Pesnell, the project scientist for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, dryly noted, “We’re not having much of a solar maximum.”
A week ago, a solitary sunspot blemished an otherwise blank yellow disk. In the ensuing days, a few more specks appeared, but even a small explosion, or coronal mass ejection, last Thursday seemed like the halfhearted effort of a slacker star.
“The truth of it is there isn’t a lot going on,” said Joseph M. Kunches, a space scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center. “It’s been a bit of a dud. You look at the Sun today and you say, ‘What?’”
Are we heading for another Maunder Minimum?