Solar Cycle 25: Start Date, Prediction, how it will look like, how it will affect our lives, and more
According to scientists and experts, Solar Cycle 25 has begun after the Sun reached its solar minimum. It is believed that it can lead to bleak and cold weather on Earth. Therefore, Solar cycles have implications on life and technology on Earth and also to the astronauts in space.
What is Solar Cycle 25?
Solar cycle 25 means that it is the 25th cycle of the Sun. The surface of the Sun is a very active space consists of electrically charged gases on its surface that generate areas of powerful magnetic forces and these forces are known as magnetic fields.
On the surface of the Sun, gases constantly move and magnetic fields can get stretched, twisted or tangled which generate motion on the surface of the sun which is known as solar activity. It varies with the stages of the solar cycle and lasts on an average for a period of 11 years. Therefore we can say that the new Solar Cycle of the Sun begins every 11 years.
Now the question arises that how do scientists track solar activity?
By using sunspots, scientists track solar activity. Sunspots are the dark blotches on the Sun that are associated with the solar activity. They are related to the origin of giant explosions like solar flares that can emit light, energy, and solar material into space.
What are Sunspots?
They are temporary phenomena on the photosphere of the Sun that appear as spots darker than the surrounding areas. On the surface of the Sun, they are relatively cooler spots.
Sunspots are the regions of reduced surface temperature that is caused due to the concentration of magnetic field flux that inhibits convection. They mostly appear in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity with a leader and a follower.
Some Sunspots are large as 50,000 km in diameter and are considered as the visible markers of the Sun's magnetic field which forms a blanket that protects the solar system from harmful cosmic rays.
When Sunspot reaches up to 50,000 km in diameter then it may release a huge amount of energy which can lead to solar flares.
Features of Solar Cycle
The activity on the surface of the Sun gets affected by the solar cycle like sunspots which are caused by the magnetic fields of the Sun. As the magnetic field change, the amount of activity on the surface of the Sun will also change.
- By counting the number of sunspots, the solar cycle can be tracked.
- The beginning of the solar cycle is solar minimum or we can say that when the Sun has the least Sunspots. Over time, the activity of the Sun and the number of Sunspots increases.
- Whereas the middle of the solar cycle is known as solar maximum or when the Sun has the most Sunspots. As the cycle ends, the solar maximum fades back to the solar minimum and a new cycle begins.
- Huge eruptions on the Sun like solar flares and coronal mass ejections also increases the solar cycle. Due to these eruptions, a powerful burst of energy took place, and send material into space.
Prediction of the Scientists
As discussed above, Scientists announced that the solar minimum for Solar Cycle 25 occurred in December 2019. Due to the variability of the Sun, they took the time to announce it.
As per the prediction fo the scientists, a solar maximum that is middle of the solar cycle will be reached by July 2025 and this solar cycle will be as strong as the last solar cycle, which was a "below-average cycle" but not without risks.
What is the reason behind tracking the solar activity or impact of the Solar Cycle?
Solar activity is tracked by scientists because it can have effects on Earth. This we can understand with the help of an example.
From coronal mass ejections (CMEs), when charged particles reach areas near the Earth, they can trigger intense lightning in the skies which are known as auroras.
When coronal mass ejections are particularly strong then they can also interfere with the power grids. This can lead to electricity shortages and power outages. Also, impact radio communications. According to NASA, solar flares and CMEs are the most powerful explosions in our solar system.
Solar activity can also affect satellite electronics and limit their lifetime.
In fact, these radiations can be dangerous for astronauts also who do work on the outside of the International Space Station.
Solar cycle forecasting can help scientists to protect radio communications on Earth, power grid, help in keeping satellites and astronauts safe. Sunspots may also have a connection or relevance to climate on earth. No doubt, solar activity affects the weather of space which can have an impact on space-based satellites, GPS, power grids, etc.