SEP 17, 2020 8:30 AM PDT

What the Sun's New Weather Cycle Means for Earth

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Scientists have confirmed that the sun is nine months into a new solar cycle, and that this 11-year cycle will resemble its predecessor, running from 2008 and 2019. So what does this new cycle mean for Earth? 

From analysis thus far, scientists say that the sun's current solar cycle, known as 'solar cycle 25', will reach a peak sunspot number of 115 in July 2025. Given that active solar cycles typically have peak sunspot numbers of over 200, they say that this cycle is expected to be relatively quiet.

Although quiet, scientists warn that our present cycle may still have a strong impact on Earth. In 2012, for example, despite being in the midst of a similarly quiet cycle, the sun produced an 'epic, hundred-year kind of solar storm' that fortunately missed Earth. Would it have happened just a week earlier, it would have hit Earth, where it would have caused havoc by frying satellites mid-orbit and instigating radio blackouts and GPS errors.

"During solar minimum, solar activity does not finish, it just changes form," says Lika Guhathakurta, a heliophysicist at NASA's headquarters. "For example, galactic cosmic rays are at an all-time high in the space environment, and this has all kinds of implications for space exploration, space tourism, and the aviation industry."

Space junk (pieces of man-made debris that orbit the Earth) also becomes a potential calamity during weak solar cycles. While a stronger solar cycle can burn up a lot of this 'junk' so it does not interfere with functional objects in Earth's orbit and new launches, a weaker sun cycle cannot do so. 

Regardless of the challenges any solar cycle may pose, scientists nevertheless say that monitoring solar activity and making predictions about upcoming solar cycles will become even more important when astronauts begin venturing beyond the Earth's protective magnetic field. 

 

Sources: Space.comNASA

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
SEP 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
An Unusual Black Hole Merges with Another
SEP 07, 2020
An Unusual Black Hole Merges with Another
A bulky black hole, which may have already been the product of a black hole merger, appears to have tangled with a more ...
SEP 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Potential Signs of Life Spotted in the Clouds of Venus
SEP 20, 2020
Potential Signs of Life Spotted in the Clouds of Venus
Scientists were stunned to discover possible signs of life in the atmosphere of Venus. Their initial findings were confi ...
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Discover Planet with Atmosphere of Vaporized Rock
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Discover Planet with Atmosphere of Vaporized Rock
Researchers have identified an exoplanet that appears to have an atmosphere composed of vaporized rock and oceans runnin ...
NOV 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
NOV 20, 2020
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
Masatoshi Koshiba, a revered Japanese physicist known for his groundbreaking work on cosmic neutrino detection, passed a ...
NOV 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Solar Power Stations in Space Could Answer Global Energy Needs
NOV 22, 2020
Solar Power Stations in Space Could Answer Global Energy Needs
W/hile renewable energy technologies have developed exponentially in recent years, a major barrier towards their adoptio ...
DEC 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
DEC 28, 2020
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
China has recovered the first new moon rock samples in decades, and from a previously unexplored part of the moon. Now w ...
Loading Comments...