Last week-end, i watched the blockbuster movie ‘Knowing’. I would not make any opinion about the movie, nevertheless, a blockbuster indeed, and forget about the scientific underlying fact, it’s a movie anyway! But, what i want to point out from the movie is, that movie depicted how the fate of Earth depend on the situation of the Sun. ‘Whatever happened to the Sun, it will affect the earth nonetheless’. This premise is hold true in the real situation.
Like a living being, the Sun has the dynamic, known as the Solar cycle. How do we know? The simplest explanation came from the observation. Since Galileo used the telescope to observe the sky, people started to aware, that there are patches in the Sun, known as the sunspot. In the mid-1800s, Heinrich Schwabe discovered that there is a pattern of the appearance of the sunspot, and then we know now about the pattern as the natural sunspot cycle, and further established as Solar Cycle. What is that patches anyway? Sunspots are islands of magnetism on the ‘surface’ of the Sun, and the source of all Sun activities, and the size might be as large as planet-sized, always changing, appear to largest and finally disappear. The usual pattern of the sunspot is every 11 years or so.
According to natural pattern of 11 years, we should be in the 24 cycle of the Solar cycle, do we? Or do we in Solar minimum instead?
But, as always, nature always keep the secret that always challenge us to uncover whatever the mistery behind. what is that? To answer that, yes we already in the cycle 24, or we still in the cycle 23? It is not like guessing a card game. Look on this picture. This figurative ‘piano plot’ tells a story about how various scientists tried to predict the ‘exact maximum’ of the cycle 24.
How many predictions are there? So many, (for further, one can read full detail from: Pesnell (2008), SolPhys, 252, 1, 209-220). Even the ‘Consensus Statement of The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel‘ agreed that there are two possibilities of the occurence:
The panel agrees solar maximum will occur near October, 2011 for the large cycle (Ri=140) case and August, 2012 for the small cycle (Ri=90) prediction. (March 20, 2007)
As long as no full understanding of underlying physics of the sunspot cycle, all the predictions are open to discussion. And that is how the scientific work goes, to explore all the uncertainty & the unknown. And as today, this is the 25 days of 2009 without the spot in the Sun.
Back to my preliminary premise, ‘whatever happened to the Sun, it will affect the earth’. We might never know what will happen next, will the cycle 24 begin soon, or we go into the more and more quiet Sun instead? We always try to have the answers, and that should be testable. This is always about experience and reality and the scientific perspective to elaborate the two.
So, we already in April, ‘usually’ we should be on hot season, but until today, we still have a cloudy day, and still rain on daily bases, do the local weather & the Sun correlated? When will the rain season ended? That would be my homework.