While the team here discusses our current veeery quiet solar minimum, what are working solar physicists thinking?  Well, from the SPA Newsletter (http://spc.igpp.ucla.edu/spa/spanews.html), a twice-weekly newsletter, came this neat bit of April 1 whimsy:

Solar Dynamics Observer Mission Postponed


From: <claruse at igpp.ucla.edu>

Officials of NASA Heliosfearic Division today reluctantly announced the postponement of the launch of the Solar Dynamics Observer until such a time as the Sun becomes dynamic again. The head of the Division, Rich Phisher, pointed out that they had already launched one mission, STEREO, into this deepest solar minimum of the Space Age, and they were not going to repeat that mistake with SDO. His assistant for solar programs, Ugotta Like-her, noted that the current solar behavior can be interpreted in two ways, neither of them good for SDO. One school of thought likens this period of quiet solar behavior to the lowering of the level of the sea right before the arrival of a tsunami. The safest place for SDO is on the ground under the shield of the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere. "We can launch when the worst is over," she adds. The second school of thought proposes that the cessation of solar activity is the beginning of a new Maunder minimum, perhaps lasting over a hundred years. The project scientist for the STEREO mission, Mike Wiser, favors this explanation and bristles at the suggestion that any mistake was made in launching STEREO. "In fact," he points out, "we have 150 years of control gas on board that can keep the cameras pointed at the Sun for more than a whole Maunder minimum." When contacted about the postponement, the PI of the major instrument on SDO, Phul Sharer, conveyed his extreme disappointment at the postponement that leaves him nothing at all to share with the science community.

Now that April 1 is past, let me speak freely.  As someone who works with STEREO data, I admit to total agreement that, although solar minimum is worth studying, we need some solar activity pronto!  Preferably a big short-out-the-US CME (coronal mass ejection).  Is it really too much to ask that the entire earth be threatened, just once, in the name of science?  Pretty please?

Alex, the daytime astronomer