Sun activity: A calm before a storm?

Chart: black zigzag line (sunspot number) rising faster than smooth curve in red (predicted number).
The current sunspot number progression starting from the last solar cycle (Solar Cycle 24) is shown in black. The prediction through the rest of the current cycle (Solar Cycle 25) is shown in red as of May 23, 2022. Notice the circled region. It shows we’re ahead of the predictions of sun activity. Plot via NOAA/ Space Weather Prediction Center.

May 23 sun activity update: Calm before a storm?

Sun activity continues to be low, with only small C-class flares over the past 24 hours. The current chance for more flaring is 99% for C-flares, 40% for M, and 5% for X. History tells us that this calm won’t last for long. We are now heading toward the peak of the current 11-year solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25. That peak is known as solar maximum. As the chart above shows, the current sunspot number continues to exceed the predicted number. This indicates that the coming solar maximum – predicted for around 2025 – will be larger than predicted for this 11-year period.

A larger maximum will mean more sunspots, larger sunspots and larger, more frequent solar activity. So the current calm doesn’t mean much. Overall, the sun is telling us it’s just a small calm before the next storm.

Meanwhile, last week’s big sunspot group – AR3014, largest sunspot region of this solar cycle so far – continues to decrease in size. But it still has the potential for more action.

Geomagnetic activity here at Earth is quiet as any effects from coronal holes wane. This should persist for the next 2-3 days.

The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with small dark spots.
Today’s sun activity with the most active regions labeled (1 UTC on May 23, 2022). Original image, without labels, via NASA SDO. The current chance for more flaring is 99% for C flares, 40% for M, and 5% for X. Today’s sun is posted by Armando Caussade. Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

A week of sun activity: May 12 to 19

To our readers and community

We invite you all to send us your beautiful recent photos of sunspots and auroras. We love receiving your photos! To those of you who’ve already posted a photo to our community, thank you.

Submit your image here

View community photos here

Recent sun photos from EarthSky’s community

The sun, seen as a pale yellow sphere with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Roland Kueng in Wolfhausen, Zürich, Switzerland, captured this filtered view of the sun on May 21, 2022. He wrote: “Although a cloudy day I wanted to see the big sunspot [AR3014, biggest sunspot region of Solar Cycle 25 so far] immediately after reading your newsletter. The clouds give a nice structure over all but still doesn’t hide the solar spot. With good eyes one can find even samller spots left of the monster.” Thank you, Roland!
Section of a large monochromatic sphere with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Patricio León in Santiago, Chile, captured this filtered closeup of the sun on May 21, 2022, and wrote “Huge sunspot AR3014 has already crossed the central meridian of the sun, measures about 8.5 x 3.5 Earth diameters making it the biggest spot of the year so far and quite easy to be seen unaided eye with appropriate solar filter.” Thank you, Patricio!

Bottom line: As of May 23, 2022, the sun is still calm. But it’s likely a calm before a coming storm. Overall, the current solar cycle is ahead of predictions for sun activity.

Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

May 23, 2022

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