NASA Confirms We've Officially Entered a Brand New Solar Cycle

Pablo Tucker
September 18, 2020

It took sorting through information on solar activity from the previous 8 months to validate in 2015 was as boring as the Sun is going to get for the next years.

Meanwhile, NOAA runs the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, which monitors the Sun and forecasts its activity.

That said, the experts still stressed the importance of preparing for space weather and possible spikes in solar activity.

The predictions made by individual scientists still vary widely, with some predicting a more calm cycle and others hoping to return to higher levels. In 2012 there was an outburst so strong that had it hit us things would be vastly different today, and not in a good way. At sunspot minimum, there may be only a handful per year; at maximum there can be more than 100. The Sun's magnetic field goes through a periodic cycle in which the south and north poles essentially switch spots, and it takes another 11 years or so for them to switch back. This solar Cycle 25 is anticipated to be as strong as the last solar cycle, which was a below-average cycle, but not without risk. According to the researchers, the new cycle will expectedly look similar to its predecessor Solar cycle 24, which ran from 2008 to 2019.

Solar Cycle 24 was the weakest one in the past 100 years, says Lisa Upton, a solar scientist with the Space Systems Research Corporation and co-chair of an global panel that monitors the solar cycle. During a media occasion on Tuesday, specialists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) examined their examination and forecasts about the new sunlight based cycle.

The solar minimum that marks the end of the previous cycle actually happened in December 2019, Nasa said.

The best we can determine for our own Sun's patterns has to do with changes in its magnetic fields, which are in turn driven by complex currents of flowing plasma deep within.

The beginning of a solar cycle is typically characterised by only a few sunspots and is therefore referred to as a solar minimum.

Despite the weakness of the last cycle, an epic storm erupted from the Sun in July 2012, but missed the Earth.

According to a study by the Max Planck Institute, sunspots that form on the surface of the sun are a great help in research.

Our Sun is a huge ball of electrically-charged hot gas.

"There is no bad weather, just bad preparations", said Jake Bleacher, chief scientist at NASA's Exploration and Human Operations Mission at the agency's headquarters.

Further, solar flares can have a major effect on radio communications, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) connectivity, power grids, and satellites.

Scientists expect this activity to rise until July 2025, when the sun reaches its next expected maximum. Space weather monitoring is also critical for the lives of astronauts and the safety of spacecrafts because they are most at risk of exposure.

"Just as NOAA's National Weather Service makes us a weather-ready nation, what we're driving to be is a space weather-ready nation", Elsayed Talaat, director of Office of Projects, Planning, and Analysis for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, said during the briefing.

Some 80 stations around the world contribute to this data and once recorded, the daily sunspot censuses are then sent for processing at the World Data Center for the Sunsport Index and Long-term Solar Observations at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels.

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