No Sunspots for Decades?

Two solar scientists—Matthew Penn and William Livingston, with the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson, Arizona—are predicting that by 2016 there may be no remaining sunspots, and the sun may stay spotless for several decades. They’re basing their prediction on the measurement of the magnetic field strength of 1,500 sunspots since 1990. What they have found is that the average strength of the magnetic fields is declining. When the magnetic field strength falls below a particular value, sunspots are unable to form.

Spaceweather.Com Wants You!

Brad, KG6IOE, spotted this recently on SpaceWeather.Com and posted it to the Glow Bugs mailing list:

*CALLING ALL HAMS:* No hobby is more sensitive to solar activity and space weather than ham radio. So here is a call to ham radio operators: Is spaceweather.com meeting your needs? We welcome your suggestions to improve our website. Submit ham-friendly ideas here: webmaster@spaceweather.com.

NASA Scientists Blame Dearth of Sunspots on Sluggish Jet Stream

According to a report on the Science@NASA website, researchers think they have discovered the reason behind the dearth of sunspots. At an American Astronomical Society press conference yesterday in Boulder, Colorado, the researchers announced that a jet stream deep inside the sun is migrating slower than usual through the star’s interior, giving rise to the current lack of sunspots.

The good news is that according to their measurements, the jet stream is now finally reaching the critical latitude of 22 degrees, meaning that conditions should return to normal. In other words, no Maunder Minimum, or prolonged period of low sunspot activity, this time around.

Another reason this is good news is that while all this blathering has made for good blog fodder, I’m getting tired of all the complaining. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Hams like to complain about the solar weather, but nobody does anything about it”!

Operating Notes

Here are some miscellaneous observations from my operations over the past week or so:

  • W1MX Turns 100. The MIT Radio Society, whose callsign is W1MX turned 100 on April 30, 2009. There was a great article on the history of the club in the April 2009 issue of QST. I had just read that article last Sunday, when I got an e-mail from KA8WFC, saying that he was going to be operating W1MX that evening. I got him on his cellphone around 8:30, and we made contact a short time later.

    It was a great thrill to work a station with such a cool history. And to think that I used to live in Somerville, MA, probably only five miles from W1MX, and never thought to visit the station.

  • Short Skip. I’ve noticed lately that the skip on 40m can be very short right around sundown. A week ago, I worked WA8JNM, near Cleveland, less than 150 miles away from me at 8:30pm (0030Z). Tonight, I worked KZ9H, near Indianapolis, not more than 230 miles away, at 9:00pm (0100Z). Both stations were 599 here. Can any of you propagation experts explain this to me?
  • Long Skip. I’m also working DX on 40m. Last night, I got on just after 10pm (0200Z). The band was kind of quiet, so I started calling CQ on 7033 kHz. After a couple of CQs, Alex, SP8ERY called. I quickly looked him up on QRZ.Com, and found a very interesting Web page that included a picture of his grandfather (right). Alex writes, “He was a radio operator during I World War. He worked on simple crystal RX and spark TX and in 1960’s when I was a young boy, he taught me first few letters of Morse code.” Since it was apparent that he knew quite a bit of English, we had a nice chat, not the usual 599/599 TU kind of DX contact.
    After working Alex, I heard IY8GM booming at 10 dB over S9. He was an easy catch. I then tuned upband again and called CQ around 7027. There, I got a call from another SP station. When we finished our short QSO, I got a call from OM3CDR. Juraj, as it turned out, also knew some English, so I was able to tell him that I am Slovak-American and had visited his home town, Bratislava.
    All in all, it was quite a good night for DX