Solar activity in 2012, the expected year of solar maximum, stopped growing and fell below the level of the previous 2011. Current level of activity is 4 times lower than the maximum values recorded during the 260 years of continuous observations of the Sun, and only a few percent higher than during the last crash in solar activity — a minimum of Dalton. These conclusions follow from the solar flare activity and the analysis of the Wolf numbers — the main method of measuring and describing cycles of solar activity.
2012 will not only lovers of esoteric, contacted him following the ordinary, fifth, AD the Mayan calendar, and professional astronomers as the year of the next solar maximum. The fact that our star every 11 years goes into a state of high activity, is one of the most significant facts about the sun, without exception, is confirmed for the past 263 years of observations. It was so long ago, in 1749, the observatory g.Tsyurih (Switzerland) began daily observations of solar activity, which continues to this day. Total for this time mankind has passed through the solar cycle 23, the latter of which peaked at the turn of 2000 and 2001, and was completed in December 2008. Since the second half of 2009, the sun began to register the new growth activity, it is the beginning of next, the 24th, cycle. Thus reach its peak of solar activity, it is easy to calculate (2001 + 11), was in this year 2012.
Beginning of the current cycle was accompanied by a rather serious crash. Our star about three years (from mid-2006 to mid-2009) was in a deep minimum, from which, despite all predictions, could not get out. During this time, has been updated or repeated several antirecord solar activity reached the lowest in the history of observations of average velocity of the solar wind, a top record of the total number of days without sunspots and by the very long break in Sunspot, fell to virtually zero level of flare activity . The long sunny "winter" has generated a number of predictions about the characteristics of future solar maximum, of which it was possible to distinguish at least two opposite scenarios.
According to the first, the Sun should release each cycle approximately equal to the total amount of energy. Accordingly, if the solar activity was depressed for a few years, then in the following years the rate of energy must compensate for this gap, we have to be much higher than average. On this basis, it was expected that the growth phase of a new cycle will be unusually fast, with "speeding", at the height of the sun could reach very high values of the activity.
The second scenario is based on the observation that in the history of the study of the sun it was never recorded extremely high highs. In this case, however, there were at least two very deep downturn. The former was measured directly: it is called the Dalton minimum, in which the sun was at its fifth and sixth cycle (from 1784 to 1810 years). The second one is known from proxy data (observations of the early astronomers, amateur and radiocarbon analysis) and is the most famous of all. This is known as the Maunder minimum that lasted from 1645 to 1715, more than half a century, which coincided with the coldest phase of the so-called Little Ice Age. Since the Maunder and Dalton minima are very close (they are separated by less than 100 years), people often assume that at least the later Dalton is like an echo (second wave) of the Maunder minimum. After that for the next 200 years of solar observations like clockwork. So, the second scenario in the new solar cycle, as once suggested that only a deep dip in solar activity in 2006-2009, may be a harbinger of a new large-scale failure of at least several solar cycles, ie from 25 to 100 years.
All solar cycles 1 to 24. The X axis shows the time from the beginning of the cycle in years. Along the axis Y — the activity level in the Wolf numbers. Colors identified: (1) red — a record for the activity of the 19th solar cycle (1954-1964), (2) green — the level of activity during the Dalton minimum (cycle 4 from 1784 to 1798, and cycle 5 from 1798 to 1810 ), (3) yellow — current 24th solar cycle, which began in 2009.
Although at present in the press are still being discussed apocalyptic scenario in which "the Sun in September-December 2012 will burn the Earth", the analysis of the flare activity and the so-called Wolf numbers that characterize the number of spots on the Sun, shows that the scenario of extremely high solar cycle the sun did not materialize. But more likely is the second scenario — extremely weak solar cycle, the comparable level with a minimum of Dalton. Thus the maximum monthly Wolf number, registered this year, is only W = 69.0 (achieved in May 2012). For comparison, during the record for the last 260 years of the solar cycle number 19 at its maximum level was reached W = 253.8, that is 3.7 times higher than the current peak. Thus, to record the activity of the Sun is still very far away, while up to a uniquely low levels of activity, on the contrary, there are very few. Indeed, during the cycle number 5 (the beginning of Dalton minimum) the highest level of activity was equal to W = 62.3, and during the next round of six maximum number was fixed at W = 96.2. It is only a few percent lower (and for the cycle number 6 even higher) than the current level recorded at the Sun. Over a low solar cycles for 260 years was observed.
Thus, the Sun while not yet passed into the state of the new global fault activity (for such conclusions is not enough the past three years), but is very dangerous that teetering on the brink. It is worth noting another important fact: in 2011, the solar activity has stopped growing. Peak Wolf numbers were not achieved in the current year (the year of the expected maximum), and in November 2011, when was W = 96. Thus, the activity of the sun this year, almost 50% lower than last year. In this case, from March 2012, solar activity for nearly half a year stabilized at W = 64-69, equal to the level of Dalton minimum.
Unlike solar spots, which are measured by a professional in 1748, continuous data on solar flares are only available since 1996. It is not possible to compare the current cycle with all preceding, but allows for a comparison with previous (cycle number 23). In particular, in the three years before the maximum of the 23rd cycle (from 1999 to 2001, inclusive) recorded 30 outbreaks of top class X, including one flash level X20 (limit after which the measuring apparatus satellite rolls), and just the 23rd solar cycle recorded 125 flares X. If we look at the current cycle, over the past three years was only 14 outbreaks of X (8 in 2011 and 6 in the current).
Apparently crucial to understanding where our star is moving to become the second half of the year, during which it will become clear whether there was an uptrend in the Sun or our star frozen at current levels, or even start to fall even lower. If the current level of activity is not significantly (1.5 — 2-fold) increased in the next 6-12 months, it will mean that the sun passes through one of the lowest in the history of the solar cycle, which were previously recorded only during prolonged disruptions activity, almost inevitably accompanied by abrupt changes in the Earth's climate.
Laboratory of X-ray astronomy of the Sun (LPI)
Category: Watching the sun and solar anomalies