The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has confirmed that we’re officially in a new solar cycle called the Solar Cycle 25. But what does it mean?
Solar Cycle X is a formal model of measuring the sun’s natural magnetic field statues that has its impact on the Sun, Earth, space, and which is dynamic. The shortest possible answer to define the solar cycle is the average time it takes for the Sun to flip its magnetic poles.
The Sun, which is a magnanimous ball of electrically charged gases has its magnetic field. And after every 11 years, the field switch places, meaning the north pole becomes south and the south-north.
How the Solar Cycle affects?
The solar cycles determine the activity on the surface of the Sun like sunspots which in-turn has its effect felt on Earth.
The change in the Sun’s magnetic field has its impact on radio communication and astronauts among other factors on Earth. Some Solar cycles are powerful than the others. The Solar Cycle 25 is reportedly one of the weakest in 100 years.
Keeping an eye on the solar cycle enables scientists to prepare for space weather storms of any kind including geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms, radio blackouts, among others. All these metrics are used by various industries to gauge the upcoming space weather.
If the sun’s magnetic activity is more during the solar cycle, on extreme events it can affect the functional electricity grids on the Earth. Some solar activities cause light to dance in the sky called the aurora.
How do Cycles change?
During the mid solar cycle, also called the Solar maximum, the sunspots are in the most number, and as time passes the sunspots start to fade, as it nears what is called the ‘Solar minimum’ which the Sun has the least number of sunspots at this time.
Once it touches the Solar minimum, another Solar Cycle begins which kick starts the same process of creating new sunspots which will gradually form, shift and fade until the next Solar minimum nears. All the dates are announced by the Solar Cycle Prediction Panel.
Interestingly, after every 11-years, the Sun reaches the Solar minimum and it begins the process of another new solar cycle, meaning the sun will go through the same process all over again.
This year’s Solar Cycle has already begun in December 2019, but since the activities of the Sun varies, thanks to its size, it can take months to announce the new cycle.
In December 2019, the Sun reached the Solar minimum of the Solar Cycle 24 and 25, meaning the new cycle was on the horizon last year already. As per the Solar Cycle Panel co-chaired by NOAA and NASA, the next Solar Maximum will come in 2025.
“As we emerge from solar minimum and approach Cycle 25’s maximum, it is important to remember solar activity never stops; it changes form as the pendulum swings,” said Lika Guhathakurta, a solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington in a media release.
Who says when the new cycle begins?
NASA, NOAA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other federal agencies and departments, work together on the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan to keep an eye on the space weather preparedness inclduing solar activities.
Because the Suns magnetic dynamics can change without notice, and some activities can have potential effects on the earth and space, the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) – a NOAA arm – is staffed 24×7 365 days a year Boulder, Colorado.
This Solar Cycle 25 is predicted to reach the solar maximum in July 2025, which is said to be a below-average cycle, including the potential of risks.
“The Sun’s impact on our daily lives is real and is there. SWPC is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year because the Sun is always capable of giving us something to forecast,” Doug Biesecker, a panel co-chair and solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado.