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Solar Cycle 25

Date: 17 September 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

Scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced their predictions about the new solar cycle, called Solar Cycle 25.

 

Background

 Solar cycles have implications for life and technology on Earth as well as astronauts in space. Solar activity varied with the stages of the solar cycle, which lasts on average for a period of 11 years.

 

Details

  • Since the Sun’s surface is a very active space, electrically charged gases on its surface generate areas of powerful magnetic forces, which are called magnetic fields.

  • Since the gases on the Sun’s surface are constantly moving, these magnetic fields can get stretched, twisted, and tangled creating motion on the surface, which is referred to as solar activity. 

  • Scientists track a solar cycle by using sunspots, which are the dark blotches on the Sun that are associated with solar activity.

  • Sunspots are associated as the origins for giant explosions such as solar flares that can spew light, energy, and solar material into space.

  • A Sunspot is an area on the Sun that appears dark on the surface and is relatively cooler than the surrounding parts.

  •  These spots are the visible markers of the Sun’s magnetic field, which forms a blanket that protects the solar system from harmful cosmic radiation.

  • When a Sunspot reaches up to 50,000 km in diameter, it may release a huge amount of energy that can lead to solar flares.

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

  • Scientists track solar activity because it can have effects on Earth. For example, when charged particles from coronal mass ejections (CMEs) reach areas near the Earth, they can trigger intense lightning in the skies referred to as auroras.

  • When CMEs are particularly strong, they can also interfere with the power grids, which can cause electricity shortages and power outages.

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

  • Recently, scientists have developed a new model that can successfully predict seven of the Sun’s biggest flares from the last solar cycle, out of a set of nine with the help of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

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