Robert Roy Britt
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
After one of the longest sunspot droughts in modern times, solar activity picked up quickly over the weekend.
A new group of sunspots developed, and while not dramatic by historic standards, the spots were the most significant in many months.
“This is the best sunspot I’ve seen in two years,” observer Michael Buxton of Ocean Beach, Calif., said on Spaceweather.com.
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Solar activity goes in a roughly 11-year cycle. Sunspots are the visible signs of that activity, and they are the sites from which massive solar storms lift off. The past two years have marked the lowest low in the cycle since 1913, and for a while scientists were wondering  if activity would ever pick back up.
During 2009 so far, the sun has been completely free of spots about 77 percent of the time. NASA researchers last month said quiet jet streams  inside the sun were responsible, and that activity would soon return to normal.
The new set of spots, named 1024, is kicking up modest solar flares.
Full story here.