The sun has entered a new cycle, it may be one of the strongest

“Scientists have been trying for years to predict the length and strength of sunspot cycles because we lack basic knowledge about the mechanism that governs this cycle,” he said. Science Alert solar physicist Scott McIntosh of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“If our prediction turns out to be correct, we will have proof that we have chosen the right framework for understanding the Sun’s internal magnetic source,” he added.

Solar minima and maxima

The level of solar activity is very variable in different periods and its cycles are closely related to the solar magnetic field. Every eleven years, the sun’s poles change places; the south becomes north and the north becomes south. It is not clear what controls these cycles, but scientists know that the poles switch when the magnetic field is weakest.

Because the Sun’s magnetic field controls its activity, in other words the occurrence of sunspots (temporary areas of strong magnetic fields), solar flares and coronal mass ejections (increased solar wind flux in the plasma produced by attaching and reconnecting magnetic field induction lines), this phase of the cycle is the minimum activity, so this period is called the solar minimum.

As the poles switch, the magnetic field intensifies and solar activity rises to the solar maximum before giving way to further pole switching.

Science minima generally monitor solar lows by carefully monitoring solar activity. According to this metric, the last solar minimum occurred in December 2019. We are now in the 25th solar cycle since the beginning of record keeping and heading for the solar maximum.

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Both NASA and NOAA anticipate that this will be a quiet maximum, with sunspots peaking in July 2025, when around 115 should appear. This would be a total of the 24th solar cycle, when the peak of sunspots was 114.

The terminator can bend smoothly

According to a study by McIntosh and colleagues, published in Solar Physics, but everything could be different. McIntosh’s team published in 2014 article, summarizing his observations of the Sun in a twenty – two – year cycle. This has long been considered the full solar cycle, during which the solar poles return to their initial positions.

But McIntosh noticed something interesting. After all, flashes of extreme ultraviolet light, called bright coronal points, seem to have moved from the poles to the equator for about twenty years and met in the middle. The movement of these points in the middle latitudes seems to coincide with the activity of the sunspots.

According to McIntosh, these points are connected to the bands of magnetic fields surrounding the Sun and progress from the poles to the equator in approximately eleven-year cycles.

Because they have the opposite polarity, they cancel each other out in a collision in the middle – scientists call this cosmic event the word “terminator”, ie “terminator”. The McIntosh terminator marks the end of one solar magnetic cycle and the beginning of another.

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But it doesn’t always take exactly the same length of time. Sometimes the magnetic bands slow down when they reach medium latitudes, so the time may vary between “terminators”. And McIntosh’s team noticed that there was a relationship between the length of time that would elapse from one “terminator” to another and the intensity of the subsequent solar maximum.

“If we look at the 270-year-old records confirming the observation of a solar event called a terminator, we find that the longer the time between two terminators, the weaker the next cycle. Conversely, the shorter the time, the stronger the next solar cycle. , “astronomer Bob Leamon of the University of Maryland at Baltimore told Science Alert.

Dalton’s minimum remains a memento

The longest cycle recorded according to the time elapsed between the two terminators was solar cycle 4, which lasted more than fifteen years. It was followed by the famous Dalton minimum – a period from about 1790 to 1830, which included almost fourteen years of solar cycle 5, during which only 82 sunspots appeared at the peak of solar activity, and the subsequent solar cycle 6, when there were only 81. As a result of less solar activity, there was a long-term drop in temperature during this period, which was reflected in the loss of agricultural production and fuel shortages, so that people all over the Earth began to starve to death.

However, shorter solar cycles, which occur in less than 11 years, are followed by highly active solar maxima with peaks well above 200 sunspots.

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Solar cycle 23 was quite long according to McIntosh’s metric. It lasted almost thirteen years. Solar cycle 24 was much quieter than the cycles that preceded it, but it was also really short, getting under ten years. So if the team’s analyzes are correct, we should expect a lot of sunspots by the mid-1920s.

McIntosh and colleagues claim that they are confident in their interpretation of solar activity. If they are right, their research can offer completely new tools for understanding how the Sun works. “There’s only one way to find out – we have to wait and see,” concludes Science Alert.

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