Tuesday, October 19, 2021

We’ve officially entered a new solar cycle, says Nasa

Sunspot activity marked the start of a new cycle last December.

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Our sun has been having rather a quiet year, although you may not have noticed given the tumultuous year it’s turning out to be here on Earth.

Ever since scientists started to track the sun’s dark spots, they have noticed a pattern of calm and rage that repeats roughly every 11 years, reports ScienceAlert.com.

Since the middle of the 18th century when observations were first recorded, there have been 24 of these solar cycles.

Scientists keep a detailed record of the small sunspots to enable them to mark the beginning of a new cycle.

December 2019 marked the start of cycle number 25, according to a panel made up of experts from Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

While the cycle of highs and lows takes place over 11 years, it is more accurately a reflection of a larger 22-year cycle defined by a complete reversal in the sun’s polarity.

Every 11 years the poles swap, eventually returning to their rightful places at the end of the next loop.

Down here on our planet’s surface, shielded by kilometres of atmosphere, solar cycles are barely noticeable.

If you’re lucky, you might see a slight increase in aurora activity, but we don’t have to be too concerned about a solar flare destroying life on Earth.

“The sun’s impact on our daily lives is real,” says Doug Biesecker, a solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado. “Just because it’s a below-average solar cycle, doesn’t mean there is no risk of extreme space weather.”

What all this seems to mean for us trying to make it through 2020 unscathed, is that last year was as boring as the sun is going to get for the next decade.

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