You know when you have those unremarkable days, those periods of time you experience you know you’ll forget tomorrow? It’s either “just another” day at work, another commute, or a Sunday where you had a beer, fell asleep, only to wake up again to realise it was too late to get up so you stayed in bed till Monday? (And no, I don’t make a habit of that. I’m sure to have at least two beers.) Most days aren’t like that for me, usually I can think of one noteworthy event that sets apart one day from the next, but sometimes it’s as if Stuff Happens™ doesn’t.
It would appear the Sun is having an extended period of time where Stuff Happens™ is at a premium, so you have to make the most of when something really does happen. In this case, the Sun released a crafty CME, thinking we wouldn’t see it…
I have fond memories of my days as a solar physics researcher (circa 2002-2006). During this period, the Sun was a hothouse of bubbling plasma joy, where I could guarantee that I’d turn on my office computer, look on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) website to see a zoo of new coronal loops, flares, coronal mass ejections, active regions and swelling sunspots.
Those were the glory days of my solar experience. Not only were my postgraduate days varied and busy, my research topic (thank goodness) was varied and busy. I can still remember the fuss about the series of X-class flares that erupted in the autumn of 2003. I even remember that I was drinking Earl Gray from my stained floral mug as I stood behind my colleagues watching the sparkle of charged particles hit the LASCO instrument as the resulting CME blasted right at Earth.
However, I now look at the blank Sun that has persisted for longer than a year and I thank my lucky stars I did my research into quiescent coronal loops just after solar maximum. Solar minimum sure is dull. What makes this solar minimum even more boring is the fact that this is the longest minimum for nearly 100 years. A record breaker for sure, but still not very exciting. In fact, the only interesting thing that happened was a tiny puff of a CME yesterday (March 16th). Even that was fairly unremarkable, I’ve seen bigger plumes escaping from my oven after overcooking a pizza.
For now, enjoy the little CME, that could be all the Sun has to offer for some time to come…