DR. SKY BLOG

Changes are coming to the sun with start of solar cycle 25

Nov 21, 2018, 2:00 PM
(NASA.gov Photo)...
(NASA.gov Photo)
(NASA.gov Photo)

Our sun has been shining for some 4 billion years and will do so for another 4 billion years.

Many of you are aware that our star, the sun, goes through a period of both 11-year and 22-year cycles.

These cycles on the sun are what many of us have come to know as the sunspot cycle, with solar maximum and minimum in the mix.

During peak solar cycles we experience a large number of sunspots and related solar events like solar flares and powerful coronal mass ejections.

These sunspot events and the high doses of charged particles, can wreak havoc on the upper atmosphere of the earth.

During these “solar storms,” we may experience radio and cellphone interference and that is not a good thing in our modern digital age.

At present time, we are at the end of solar cycle 24. These cycles have been recorded beginning in 1755 and have been followed with great interest ever since.

If you were an observer of the sun with a solar telescope, you would have noticed that there have been some 190 days of this year with no sunspots on the visible disk of the sun.

That comes out to some 59 percent of the 2018.

What is going on?

The current sunspot cycle is slowly coming to a close, with a sunspot group that has appeared on the sun known as active region AR2727.

The sunspot groups in this hemisphere of the sun have a magnetic polarity of plus/minus.

We are now observing some tiny sunspot groups at higher latitudes, which are magnetically charged as minus/plus.

This change of polarity in sunspot groups is the clue to a new solar cycle.

The new sunspot is simply “magnetically reversed.”

Sunspot cycle 24 was the weakest in some 100 years, with solar cycle three, peaking around May 1778, solar cycle eight peaking in March 1837 and solar cycle 15 peaking in August 1917.

Another great sunspot peak was reached with solar cycle 18 in May 1947.

What is the general forecast for the upcoming sunspot cycle 25?

We may be heading to a period of less intense maximums and lower number of sunspots and dangerous solar storms.

This is good news, as we are so dependent on digital technology, which can suffer the most, in large scale solar storms headed towards Earth.

If you want a real reminder of just how powerful these solar storms can be, look no further than the great solar flare event of September 1859.

The great Carrington Event hurled a huge solar coronal mass ejection at the earth and struck a major blow to our planet’s magnetic field.

If that were to occur today, we would be in some real trouble with our dependence on electronic technology.

Finally, there was also a deep minimum in the solar cycle, which lasted some 70 years, known as the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715). There were few, if any, sunspots and there was a real trend of global cooling.

Just remember this … all weather is driven by the sun.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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Changes are coming to the sun with start of solar cycle 25