Tag Archives: Solar Cycle 25

NASA Science Live presents “Our Next Solar Cycle”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who writes:

On Tuesday, September 15, 2020 Science at NASA had a presentation on the next solar cycle predictions.

It’s available on YouTube and other outlets without needing a login or Zoom serial number:

Fascinating! Thanks for the tip, Paul!

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Radio Waves: Maritime Mobile Net Assists, Voice of Ambiguity, Promising Solar Cycle 25 Prediction, and the Future of Ham Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Rich Smith, Kim Elliott, and Pete Eaton for the following tips:


Maritime Mobile Service Network Comes to the Aid of Vessel in Distress (ARRL News)

The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) on 14.300 MHz came to the assistance of a sailing vessel on June 25. MMSN control operator Steven Carpenter, K9UA, took a call on 20 meters from Ian Cummings, KB4SG, the skipper of the Mystic Lady, then some 40 miles east of Florida. Cummings reported that his engine had failed as he was attempting to return to his home port of Stuart, Florida. He not only had insufficient wind, but a strong current was carrying the vessel out to sea.

Cummings had been unable to reach any station via his VHF marine radio, since he was too far from the coast. Assisting in the call was Robert Wynhoff, K5HUT, also an MMSN net control operator. Cummings said his vessel, with one passenger on board, was drifting northwest toward the South Carolina coast.

“A major concern was that the vessel was heading directly towards a lee shore,” the MMSN reported. “Lee shores are shallow, dangerous areas which are a hazard to watercraft. Vessels could be pushed into the shallow area by the wind, possibly running aground and breaking up.”

Carpenter contacted Cummings’ family, who had already called the Sea Tow marine towing service. Sea Tow advised Carpenter to tell the captain to head closer to shore by sailing west, if possible. Carpenter told Cummings that if he was unable to get nearer to shore, he would notify the US Coast Guard, which was already monitoring the situation.

As the MMSN reported, “The Mystic Lady was able to make some headway, but it was very slow. Members of the MMSN made additional calls via landline to the captain’s family as to the ongoing status of those on board. The family was concerned but relieved that communication was established and that all were well.”

Several hours later, the captain advised that the wind had picked up, allowing him to head close enough to shore for Sea Tow to reach the vessel and take it back to port.

The Pacific Seafarers’ Net, which monitors 14.300 MHz from the West Coast after the MMSN secures at 0200 UTC, kept in touch with the Mystic Lady into the night while it was under tow.

The tired, grateful captain later messaged the net, “A million thanks to everyone last night who helped rescue us on 14.300. Everyone chipped in as we drifted north in the Gulf Stream 60 miles headed to a lee shore. The MMSN net control and several others stayed with us for hours, phoned people, and were immensely helpful. The situation on board was dangerous. We are now safely under tow home. You folks are amazing!”

In operation since 1968, the MMSN monitors 14.300 MHz 70 hours a week to assist vessels and others in need of assistance. — Thanks to MMSN Net Manager Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL[]

VOA: Voice of ambiguity (The Hill)

From 1985 to 2017, I was an audience research analyst at the Voice of America. During that time I was preoccupied by the fact that the BBC World Service had a larger audience than VOA. VOA had a larger budget, so money was not the issue.

In audience surveys, I inserted a question asking those who listened to BBC more often than VOA: “why?” The answer provided most often was trustworthiness of the news.

I asked a listener from Burma (now known as Myanmar) why he thought BBC is considered more trustworthy than VOA. He replied that VOA is more closely connected to the U.S. government than BBC is to the U.K. government. I asked how he knows this. He responded that it’s because VOA says so every day.

He was referring to the “disclaimer” at the beginning of the editorials that, by the 1980s, were heard daily on VOA’s English broadcasts: “Next, an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.”

The daily editorial was a requirement handed down by VOA’s parent U.S. Information Agency. The editorials are drafted by the VOA’s policy staff, sent to the State Department for approval and finally broadcast after a sometimes lengthy back and forth.

Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, VOA’s present parent agency, is restoring the editorials to their previous prominence on VOA. In recent years, with diminished radio output, editorials were relegated to VOA’s little-viewed satellite television service and to a website separate from the main voanews.com. The revival of the editorials is a step in the repoliticization of VOA.[]

Newer Solar Cycle 25 Forecast Runs Counter to Consensus (ARRL Newsletter)

Scientists associated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Maryland, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and other institutions are offering a “bold prediction” on how Solar Cycle 25 will play out. In a paper, “Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude,” they assert that the next sunspot cycle will be of major proportions. The forecast stands in stark contrast to the consensus of forecasters who predict that the magnitude of the nascent Cycle 25 may not be much different from the current unremarkable solar cycle, which appears to have reach its low point.

“From the dawn of modern observational astronomy, sunspots have presented a challenge to understanding — their quasi-periodic variation in number, first noted 160 years ago, stimulates community-wide interest to this day,” the abstract points out. “A large number of techniques are able to explain the temporal landmarks, (geometric) shape, and amplitude of sunspot ‘cycles,’ however, forecasting these features accurately in advance remains elusive.”

Monthly sunspot numbers since 1749. The data values are represented by dots, and the 12-month running average values are illustrated as a red shaded area. Vertical blue dashed lines signify the magnetic activity cycle termination times that trigger the rapid growth of sunspot activity.

The paper notes that recent studies have illustrated a relationship between the sun’s 22-year Hale magnetic cycle and the production of sunspot cycle landmarks and patterns, but not the amplitude of the cycle.

“Using discrete Hilbert transforms on 270 years of monthly sunspot numbers to robustly identify the so-called ‘termination’ events — landmarks marking the start and end of sunspot and magnetic activity cycles — we extract a relationship between the temporal spacing of terminators and the magnitude of sunspot cycles,” the abstract explains. “Given this relationship and our prediction of a terminator event in 2020, we deduce that Sunspot Cycle 25 will have a magnitude that rivals the top few since records began. This outcome would be in stark contrast to the community consensus estimate of Sunspot Cycle 25 magnitude.”[]

The Uncertain Future of Ham Radio (IEEE Spectrum)

Software-defined radio and cheap hardware are shaking up a hobby long associated with engineering

Will the amateur airwaves fall silent? Since the dawn of radio, amateur operators—hams—have transmitted on tenaciously guarded slices of spectrum. Electronic engineering has benefited tremendously from their activity, from the level of the individual engineer to the entire field. But the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, with its ability to easily connect billions of people, captured the attention of many potential hams. Now, with time taking its toll on the ranks of operators, new technologies offer opportunities to revitalize amateur radio, even if in a form that previous generations might not recognize.

The number of U.S. amateur licenses has held at an anemic 1 percent annual growth for the past few years, with about 7,000 new licensees added every year for a total of 755,430 in 2018. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission doesn’t track demographic data of operators, but anecdotally, white men in their 60s and 70s make up much of the population. As these baby boomers age out, the fear is that there are too few young people to sustain the hobby.

“It’s the $60,000 question: How do we get the kids involved?” says Howard Michel, former CEO of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). (Since speaking with IEEE Spectrum, Michel has left the ARRL. A permanent replacement has not yet been appointed.)

This question of how to attract younger operators also reveals deep divides in the ham community about the future of amateur radio. Like any large population, ham enthusiasts are no monolith; their opinions and outlooks on the decades to come vary widely. And emerging digital technologies are exacerbating these divides: Some hams see them as the future of amateur radio, while others grouse that they are eviscerating some of the best things about it.[]


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Solar Minimum: Deep, Deeper…and even Deeper?

Solar Minimum is DEEP and appears to be continuing.  Observer Franky Dubois from Belgium – who posts for the Solar Section of A.L.P.O. – Assoc. of Lunar & Planetary Observers (http://alpo-astronomy.org/) has fully observed three complete Solar Cycles over the past 38-years and he’s graphed the Sunsport R Number – defined as R = K (10g + s), where g is the number of sunspot groups and s is the total number of distinct spots. 

This is what he posted yesterday on the A.L.P.O. Solar Message Group:

Minimum cycle 21: 11.4 April 19[8]6

Minimum cycle 22: 10.4 May 1996

Minimum cycle 23: 2.88 November 2008

Status of cycle 24 thus far: 1.6

Many experts in December (2019) speculated we had reached “Solar Minimum” (error factor of +/- 6-months).  Well, it’s 5-months later and we’ve only seen a couple of next cycle [reversed polarized areas] sunspots/small groups – most of which died-out very quickly and did not sustain a full transit across the observable disc of the sun.  We’ve seen no real evidence – yet – that we’re on the other side or up-side of Minimum.  As an amateur/hobbyist astronomer & Solar Observer myself, I’ve seldom taken the time to set-up my gear & observe (even in wavelengths other than visible).

It’s been discussed here and elsewhere before, but looking at the last 53-years of data there has been a very, very sharp decline in Solar Maximums [and Minimums] sunspot numbers.

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

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One sunspot into Solar Cycle 25

(Source: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory via Spaceweather Archive)

(Source: Spaceweather Archive via Michael Bird)

Nov. 1, 2019: Breaking a string of 28 spotless days, a new sunspot (AR2750) is emerging in the sun’s southern hemisphere–and it’s a member of the next solar cycle. A picture of the sunspot is inset in this magnetic map of the sun’s surface from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

How do we know AR2750 belongs to the next solar cycle? Its magnetic polarity tells us so. Southern sunspots from old Solar Cycle 24 have a -/+ polarity. This sunspot is the opposite: +/-. According to Hale’s Law, sunspots switch polarities from one solar cycle to the next. AR2750 is therefore a member of Solar Cycle 25.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

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Planetary orbits may influence 11-year solar cycle

(Image: NASA)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Van Hoy, who shares this interesting article via Space.com:

The orbits of Venus, Earth and Jupiter may explain the sun’s regular 11-year cycle, a new study suggests.

A team of researchers from Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), a research institute in Dresden, Germany, showed that the magnetic fields of those three planets influence the cycle of solar activity, resolving one of the bigger questions in solar physics.

“Everything points to a clocked process,” Frank Stefani, a researcher at HZDR and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. “What we see is complete parallelism with the planets over the course of 90 cycles.”

The researchers compared observations of solar activity — like sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections — from the last thousand years with planetary alignments in order to show that there was in fact a correlation, according to the statement.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Space.com.

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NOAA/NASA panel publishes Solar Cycle 25 Preliminary Forecast

(Source: NOAA via Michael Bird)

The NOAA/NASA co-chaired international panel to forecast Solar Cycle 25 released a preliminary forecast for Solar Cycle 25 on April 5, 2019. The consensus: Cycle 25 will be similar in size to cycle 24. It is expected that sunspot maximum will occur no earlier than the year 2023 and no later than 2026 with a minimum peak sunspot number of 95 and a maximum of 130. In addition, the panel expects the end of Cycle 24 and start of Cycle 25 to occur no earlier than July, 2019, and no later than September, 2020. The panel hopes to release a final, detailed forecast for Cycle 25 by the end of 2019. Please read the official NOAA press release describing the international panel’s forecast at https://www.weather.gov/news/190504-sun-activity-in-solar-cycle

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Scientists predict sun may ‘hibernate’

Photo Source: NASA

News sources are publishing information regarding new scientific research which puts our sunspot cycle into question. How does this affect the average shortwave listener? Periods of high sunspot numbers generally produce excellent DX conditions. In other words, with modest equipment, listeners can hear even weak signals around the world. Amateur radio operators find that they can communicate around the world with very low power.

Our current cycle (cycle 24) has been relatively uneventful compared to the past–but the prediction for Cycle 25 is scary. Indeed, it may not even happen on schedule. The news sources below explain in detail.

Spaceref.com:
A missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles say that our Sun is heading for a rest period even as it is acting up for the first time in years, according to scientists at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, independent studies of the solar interior, visible surface, and the corona indicate that the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all.

From Yahoo:
For years, scientists have been predicting the Sun would by around 2012 move into solar maximum, a period of intense flares and sunspot activity, but lately a curious calm has suggested quite the opposite.

According to three studies released in the United States on Tuesday, experts believe the familiar sunspot cycle may be shutting down and heading toward a pattern of inactivity unseen since the 17th century.

Science Mag:
Things may be about to get very dull on the sun. Three different measurements of solar activity, reported by scientists at a press conference today, suggest that the next 11-year-long solar cycle will be far quieter than the current one. In fact, it may not happen at all: Sunspots, the enormous magnetic storms that erupt on the sun’s surface as the cycle builds, might disappear entirely for the first time in approximately 400 years.

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