FP TrendingSep 17, 2020 17:16:13 IST
The sun takes eleven years to complete a solar cycle before beginning a new one. The sun has started a new solar cycle, according to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – a period of space weather that can have some wide-ranging implications for technology on Earth as well as astronaut safety.
According to NASA, the solar minimum (the period between two cycles when the sun is the least active) occurred in December 2019, marking the start of a new solar cycle. Experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have named the event solar cycle 25.
Scientists use sunspots as markers to track the solar cycle's progress. According to experts, the dark patches on the Sun’s surface are associated with solar activity like giant explosions which can emit light, energy, and solar material into space.
Lika Guhathakurta, solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington stated that as Earth emerges from solar minimum and approaches Cycle 25's maximum, it is important to remember that solar activity never stops.
With solar minimum already over, scientists expect the Sun's activity to increase toward the next predicted maximum in July 2021. Doug Biesecker, panel co-chair and solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado, said Solar Cycle 25 is likely to be as strong as its predecessor, which was a below-average cycle, but does have its risks.
Biesecker said that just because it is below-average solar cycle does not mean that there is no risk of extreme space weather.
Changes in solar weather can have wide implications. Astronauts who are not protected by Earth's magnetic field can be struck by dangerous amounts of radiation and it can also cause a lot of problems for radio communication technologies on the ground.
Experts are of the opinion that the new cycle should offer an opportunity to make plans for the changes expected in the coming years. Jake Bleacher, chief scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters said, “There is no bad weather, just bad preparation,” adding, “Space weather is what it is – our job is to prepare.”
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