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New solar cycle forecast: Experts predict early maximum

New solar cycle forecast: Experts predict early maximum

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The Sun is becoming more active and will likely reach maximum activity much earlier than expected. It can cause problems.

FRANKFURT – The current solar cycle maximum will come early and will likely last longer than previously expected. This is what experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) of the US National Meteorological and Oceanographic Agency (NOAA) say. In April 2019, SWPC experts were still determining that the solar cycle would be weak. “We expect another fairly weak cycle, preceded by a long, deep minimum,” scientist Lisa Upton said at the time.

According to 2019 forecasts, the solar cycle should peak in July 2025 with a maximum number of sunspots of 115. However, there have already been days in the current year More than 200 sunspots – A value that could rise further in the coming months. Finally, experts now expect the solar maximum to occur between January and October 2024 in their updated forecast.

New Solar Cycle Forecast: Maximum comes earlier and lasts longer

“We expect our new experimental prediction to be much more accurate than the Commission’s 2019 predictions and, unlike previous solar cycle predictions, will be continually updated on a monthly basis as new sunspot observations become available,” SWPC’s Mark Misch confirms in a report. notice. “This is a very important change.”

The sun is currently more active than expected. Explosions on the surface release plasma into space, which can hit Earth as a solar storm. (File photo) © NASA/SDO/AIA/Goddard Space Flight Center

The term solar cycle refers to a period lasting about eleven years during which the sun’s activity is constantly changing. This becomes visible through the number of sunspots on the surface of the Sun. A more active Sun also means that plasma is being flung more frequently and violently into space, which can also hit Earth. On the one hand, a so-called solar storm causes beautiful and colorful northern lights – but it can also lead to problems and damage.

Solar storms can cause problems with satellites and damage power grids

It is known that satellites can encounter problems during solar storms – among other things, navigation systems no longer work properly, and things can also become difficult with radio. Last year, SpaceX lost 40 Starlink satellites to a solar storm. Astronauts and people on airplanes are exposed to increased amounts of radiation during a solar storm.

If a particularly violent solar storm hits Earth, infrastructure could also be damaged – for example, this applies to power grids and devices connected to them, but also to internet infrastructure. Predicting the solar cycle and closely monitoring the sun should help identify these risks in a timely manner and confront them. There are, among other things, many space probes that constantly monitor the Sun. (unpaid bill)