It's been a good year since the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (of the U.S. but the global authority on the 'fluids' of this planet) released a 'consensus' on the next solar activity maximum. Because clear 'precursors' of the new cycle were lacking a year ago, the consensus among dozens of experts on solar behavior actually consisted of two competing predictions, and since then the progression of solar activity has been monitored. So what's the status after one year, this blogger asked, in the light of 'worries' among seasond solar observers at the 32rd SONNE-Tagung this weekend that the current minimum is felt to last longer than any in decades.
Replies NOAA's Doug Biesecker: "We 'released' the update [of the progression] today [May 2nd], which is, still no change. The questions that we set down one year ago to challenge either side [i.e. the competing modellers] have not yet been resolved. Mostly, the Sun is managing to not cooperate and lean one way or another. As for the minimum, it isn't all that unusual. Note, the last 2-3 minima were a bit higher than typical and I believe this one slightly below average, which makes it seem that much lower." Incidentally a 3rd (small) sunspot from the 24th cycle just appeared - and yesterday many nice prominences have been observed. So stay tuned: According to both the 'low' and the 'high' prediction, solar activity will begin to surge later this year and rise steeply throughout 2009. And by then we will also be able to better predict the shape of the 24th maximum.
In other news another comet Boattini has been discovered but won't get as bright as the more famous one, though here and there clear images were taken. • Currently asteroid (7) Iris is approaching Messier 104, the Sombrero Galaxy: a nice target for photographers. • Some more pictures of Mercury at the Plejades on May 2 (a rare view; now the evening apparition has grown to almost one hour per evening in the N hemisphere). • Saturn animated with the bright storm and many moons and in methane absorption at 890 nm with the planet much fainter than the rings. • Star gazing in Argentina at the Complejo Astronomico El Leoncito. • And hail to the Solar System Visualizer tool.