It is official now: the Sun has entered a new cycle, specifically in solar cycle number 25. This new stage threatens a major space phenomenon that may occur in 2025 and that may have disastrous consequences for Earth.
The new solar cycle that began in December 2019 was finally identified on September 15, 10 months later, as usual, due to the instability of solar activity. The activity of our star will be critical for space weather within the solar system over the next 11 years.
It is expected that the peak of solar activity in this new stage will be recorded in July 2025. Then there will be, as expected, major solar flares that could intercede our terrestrial communications and even disrupt the electricity supply.
It may sound strange and alien, but the truth is that Earth has already been exposed to the most shocking solar meteorological phenomena: in July 2012 a hot plasma cloud or known as coronal cloud shot out of the Sun, but fortunately the solar storm crossed the Earth’s orbit and, although the Earth was spared from the impact.
That was in 2012, but perhaps in the future, there will not be so much luck, and that is why the activity of the star king must be accurately monitored. Something that helps in this task is sunspots areas that are the origin of explosive flares and other dangerous phenomena that throw light, energy and solar matter into space.
“We keep a detailed record of the few tiny sunspots that mark the onset and rise of the new cycle,” says Frederic Clette, director at the World Center for the Sunspot Index and Long-Term Solar Observations in Brussels, quoted by CNN.
In the process of gradual increase in activity that will take place until reaching the peak of 2025, a total solar eclipse is forecast to cross North America in April 2024, which will allow scientists to better analyze solar flares.
“We hope that an eclipse close to solar maximum will not only show us an awe-inspiring corona, but also some big, interesting sunspots on the face of the Sun to help us learn about living inside the atmosphere of an active star and the space weather it creates,” said Valentín Martinez Pillet, director of the Colorado National Solar Observatory.
Going back to the 2012 phenomenon, Doug Biesecker, a solar physicist at NOAA’s Center for Space Weather Prediction and co-chair of the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, explains that the maximum of cycle 24 caught the astronomical community off guard by a miscalculation.
“We treated the sun as one big ball of gas, but the hemispheres, south and north, behave independently. During the last solar cycle, they were out of phase with each other more than ever before, which ruined our forecast,” clarifies Biesecker.
Now, however, the predictive methods have improved and, in any case, the monitoring and analysis of the magnetic fields of the polar regions of the Sun continue to offer the best possible way of forecasting, in his words.
In addition, NASA’s research of the near-Earth space environment is also directed in the direction of forecasting space weather.
This is partly because knowing space weather is key to astronauts’ stays in space, and that becomes even more important now that work is being done to send humans out of Earth’s orbit, such as to the International Space Station.