This Is a Quiet Sun?

Christopher Picking of Wairarapa, New Zealand, captured this sequence of auroral beams moving over a 4-minute interval on November 8th. The Southern Cross is just left of center. Click on image for a 170 kilobyte animation.
We're two years from the estimated minimum of the 11-year solar cycle, and the average number of sunspots has decreased as predicted. But the sunspots that remain continue to pack quite a wallop. A series of major solar flares from sunspot 10696 has kept geomagnetic activity near or above "storm" level ever since November 7th. Intense auroral activity has been reported for three consecutive nights, reaching as far south as Borrego Springs, California, just north of the Mexican border.

And there's more to come. On November 10th, at 0300 UT, sunspot 696 released its most powerful flare yet, a class X-2 event that's expected to glance Earth's magnetic field on November 11th or 12th. So keep your eyes peeled for more spectacular auroras in the nights ahead! For more information and the latest forecasts, see SpaceWeather.com and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web sites.