Less than two weeks ago, the sun was peppered with large active regions. Now, the face of the sun is almost completely blank.
Suddenly, the sunspot number and the sun’s x-ray output have dropped to their lowest levels in years. Is Solar Maximum finished? Probably not, but the ongoing quiet spell is remarkable.
Maybe you remember 2008 and 2009, years of spotlessness when the sun plunged into the deepest solar minimum in a century.
The resemblance, however, is only superficial. Deep inside the sun, the solar dynamo is still churning out knots of magnetism that should soon bob to the surface to make new sunspots. Solar Max is not finished, it’s just miniature.