Slumbering Giant (September 12, 2008)
Compare the magnetic activity near the Sun's surface for early 2003 and now (Sept. 9) 2008 and the differences between the two levels are striking. In these magnetograms (taken several times each day), SOHO's MDI instrument can detect and display the north and south magnetic polarities of active regions and image them as white and black. Much of the Sun's activity, usually seen as sunspots, is magnetic in nature. About five and a half years ago, not long after the Sun's period of maximum activity, the Sun was still magnetically active with black and white pairs peppered across its surface. This past week (see video) the Sun has had no sunspots, nor for the last month. The next solar cycle of activity was expected to have begun by now, but it is late in arriving. Historically, such delays have occurred before, so this lagging period is not without precedent. So, all we can do is wait.
SOHO began its Weekly Pick some time after sending a weekly image or video clip to the American Museum of Natural History (Rose Center) in New York City. There, the SOHO Weekly Pick is displayed with some annotations on a large plasma display.
If your institution would also like to receive the same Weekly Pick from us for display (usually in Photoshop or QuickTime format), please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.