The Solar Cycle
The first sunspot in the new cycle was identified Aug. 12, 1995 (earlier than expected) by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology's Big Bear Solar Observatory. Activity is expected to gradually increase and peak in March 2000.

A striking feature on the above plot is the dramatically reduced number of sunspots observed in the time period spanning the years 1645-1715. This time period is now usually referred to as the Maunder minimum. The Maunder minimum shows up particularly well in the auroral record.