Posted by BC on January 9th, 2008
Although Solar Max is not due to occur until 2011 or 2012, the build-up has begun. On January 04, 2008, a sunspot was detected that marked the beginning of the new cycle. The specific sunspot (number 981) was special because it had a reverse-polarity, the negative polarity lead to the right in the Northern Hemisphere.
What this means for observers is that solar activity is on an increase. The blank face of the nearest star is soon to give way to the spots that provide hints of things to come. With higher solar activity, more solar weather occurs. Sunspots of all sizes come and go; coronal mass ejections occur; and solar observers are once again busy.
Some side effects of solar storms include: potential for power outages, cell phone interruption, and aurorae.
Solar Cycle 24 starts winding up as Sun gazers, aurora watchers, and others stand ready for the new activity.