NASA is baffled by the sun this year as it entered its year of “solar maximum” but has had relatively low activity.
“Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent,” NASA said.
They took the image (right) on February 28, 2013, and it showed little activity and only a few small sunspots. Usually, during peak solar activity, the sun has many spots.
NASA is now questioning why there is such little activity, and has many researchers wondering if they simply calculated it wrong.
Solar physicist Dean Pesnell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center thinks there’s another explanation.
“This is solar maximum,” he said.
“But it looks different from what we expected because it is double-peaked. The last two solar maxima, around 1989 and 2001, had not one but two peaks.”
During that time, solar activity went up, dipped and went back up again, making a mini-cycle that lasted around two years.
He believes the same thing could be happening now, because sunspot counts jumped in 2011 and dipped in 2012.
He thinks the spots will be back in 2013.
“I am comfortable in saying that another peak will happen in 2013 and possibly last into 2014,” he said.
“If the two cycles are twins, it would mean one peak in late 2013 and another in 2015.”