Did we pass solar maximum?

The monthly sunspot index shows a continuous decay since July (Provisional values for July: 169.1, August: 130.5, September: 109.9). Meanwhile, different prediction methods are disagreeing whether the cycle 23 is still rising or not. All this suggest that we are now very near the solar maximum.

Active region 9169 the largest sunspot in 9 years

Active region 9169, the largest sunspot in 9 years, is rotating towards the center of the Sun's visible disk. Magnetic fields above the spot have a tangled beta-gamma-delta configuration which is likely to trigger violent activity in the coming days.

The Sun on September 18 (top left), 21, and 24 (large image). Credits: Franky Dubois

Tantalizing EIT picture from SOHO

A high speed solar wind stream

The ACE (Advanced Composition Explorer) satellite detected a steady increase, over a period of roughly one day on the 28th of August, of the solar wind speed from 400 to 600 km/s (yellow curve in plot underneath). This gradual but significant change of the wind speed indicates that the Earth is experiencing the solar wind originating from a different region of the sun, namely a coronal hole.

High resolution image from the Swedish Solar Telescope

The Swedish Vacuum Solar Telescope (SVST)  at La Palma makes high resolution images of the solar photosphere using adaptive optics. This image is taken on April 27 and shows the large sunspot in Active Region 8970.

Click here for a high resolution version of this image. More info at Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD - 22 May 2000).

Perseids and aurora

An interplanetary shock wave from the Sun struck Earth's magnetosphere just before the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on August 12, 2000, triggering a powerful geomagnetic storm. The shock wave originated from a full halo coronal mass ejection that was observed leaving the Sun by the LASCO C3 coronagraph on August 9.

Picture of the week

An erupting filament imaged by the Earth-orbiting TRACE satellite on July 19. The filament measures over 100,000 kilometers in height, so that the entire Earth could easily fit into its outstretched arms. Gas in the filament is funneled by the complex and changing magnetic field of the Sun. After lifting off from the Sun's surface, most of the filamentary gas will eventually fall back. More powerful solar eruptions emit particles that reach the Earth and can disrupt manmade satellites.

Aurora Borealis visible in Belgium 6-7 April 2000

Geomagnetic storm

In the night of 6 to 7 April 2000, the northern light or aurora was seen throughout all Belgium. The Solar Influences Data Center (Royal Observatory of Belgium) was flooded by telephones and emails from people in Gent, Limburg, Brussels and Liège who saw moving bands in colours varying from red-orange to purple. Good viewing of the event was enhanced by open and clear skies as well as a slender crescent moon.



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