Solar Cycle 24: False Starts
In early January 2008, NASA reported the start of Solar Cycle 24 with the sighting of a tiny reversed polarity spot. It lasted three days and then disappeared.
This was reported by Anthony Watts thus:
Solar physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. The signal for the start of a new cycle is sighting a particular kind of sunspot. That wait is over.
And the NASA blog said:
“On January 4, 2008, a reversed-polarity sunspot appeared—and this signals the start of Solar Cycle 24,” says David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Above: Images of the first sunspot of Solar Cycle 24 taken by the NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
Solar activity waxes and wanes in 11-year cycles. Lately, we’ve been experiencing the low ebb, “very few flares, sunspots, or activity of any kind,” says Hathaway. “Solar minimum is upon us.”
But the first announcement of Solar Cycle 24 wasn’t made by NASA in January 2008 – it was actually made by Ulrich Reith on 31 July 2006, with this post:
Last night it seems to have happend, the first sunspot of solar cycle 24 appeard on the southern hemisphere of the sun.
Very close to NOAA 10902 a tiny spot which should be named 10903 appeared at S12W55.
In the SOHO MDI magnetogramms it clearly shows a reversed polarity if compared to the polarity of cycle 23. (cycle 23: black first towards the western limb and white following black / cycle 24: white in front of black)
And I show the picture with an arrow so you know which spot we’re talking about.
Again, the spot persisted for a few days and disappeared.
So what to believe? The transition between one solar cycle and the next is very difficult to call as during the transition both magnetically polarized spots can be seen. The newer cycle spots are usually high latitude (>20o) North and South of the solar equator. Solar cycle 23 spots still continue to produce and any SC24 spots so far are barely a pixel in size and very rare.
Solar cycle 24 remains difficult to call definitively at this time, in my view.