DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

Where is Cycle 23?

One of the more persistent QRPers came by the other day and he was not in a good mood. "Where have all the sunspots gone?", he asked, "where are they? The flux has been stuck in the low seventies forever! I've looked at all the historical charts of solar cycles and it seems to me that we've been at the bottom for several years now. This is unprecedented!! There's something wrong this time, and there are only two possible explanations. Why doesn't someone do something?" With that, he threw himself on the veranda chair, took a deep breath, and stared us right in the eye: "Why doesn't someone either tell us the truth or bring on cycle 23?"

There are days when we feel that if we hear any more about the solar minimum, we are going to explode! However, with several successful VK0IR QSOs under our DX belt, we thought about what W9EEA had said in the Amateur's Code. So we turned to the QRPer and said, "Tell us more. What are the two explanations for the continued cycle minimum?" The QRPer was ready and started with the one thought that brings terror to the heart of any genuine true-blue DXer. "Well", he began, "the most likely reason is that we've hit another Maunder Minimum, one of those seventy to eighty year periods where there just is no sunspot activity. And no one will tell us because. . ." We jumped to our feet: "Stop! That's enough! There'll be no mention of that here, understand?" The QRPer looked at us for a moment and realized we were serious about such DX heresy.

"Okay, okay", he said, avoiding our glance for a moment, "I guess it's not that." We sat back down, still shaken that any DXer would mention that phrase, no matter how unlikely it might be. "What's the second theory?", we asked, putting forth our poker face and looking directly at the QRPer. "It's all those government agencies! Like NOAA and the NASA folks at the JPL in Pasadena. Or maybe the Royal Belgian Observatory. No one has declared that Cycle 22 has ended and Cycle 23 has begun. Someone has to do it! They have all their charts and computers and smoothed sunspot numbers and all that suffering stuff. Why don't they stop looking at them and make the official announcement? It's always happened in the past. As soon as one of these agencies make the official announcement of the new cycle, the flux starts to rise." He jumped to his feet and stared at us with his beady little eyes. "You can't argue with that, Buster! It's always been that way. Why are they holding back? What do they have against us DXers?"

Son of a Gun! What could we say to a DX dog who was barking up the wrong tree? Cause and effect can sometimes be puzzling, so we simply said: "You could be right. Maybe they forgot and need to be reminded. Why don't you write them a letter, word it tactfully, and maybe they'll notice their mistake." The QRPer brightened up and made his way toward the veranda steps. "Now there's an idea! And if they do, maybe they'll mention me in their announcement. I might get my call in CQ or QST!"

And with that he was off down the hill, sure that the sunspots would soon be back. We checked our subscriptions to CQ and QST to make sure they were up to date. It's not often that a local gets credit for such a major event, and we didn't want to miss it!! We called the Old Timer and told him the news . . . but half way through the story he hung up on us. Maybe the phones were bad . . .

73/DX Paul VE1DX

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