March 27, 2023
To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and …
December 2019 marked the beginning of Solar Cycle 25. The Sun’s activity has quickly ramped up and even though we haven’t reached peak levels in this cycle, the Sun’s activity is already exceeding predictions. Solar events will continue to increase as we near solar maximum in 2025, and our lives and technology on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space, will be impacted.
A More Active Solar Maximum
During the Sun’s natural 11-year cycle, the Sun shifts from relatively calm to stormy, then back again. At its most active, called solar maximum, the Sun is freckled with sunspots and its magnetic poles reverse. (On Earth, that would be like if the North and South Poles flip-flopped every decade.) During solar minimum, on the other hand, sunspots are few and far between. Often, the Sun is as blank and featureless as an egg yolk.
With more activity comes an increase in space weather events including solar flares and solar eruptions, which can impact radio communications, electric power grids, and navigation signals, as well as pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts. We have an increasing dependence on space-based technology and ground-based infrastructure that are susceptible to the dynamic nature of space. For many new commercial and government stakeholders, this already stronger-than-expected solar cycle will be the first they navigate.
During Solar Cycle 26, the GDC mission will be able to provide valuable insight that isn’t available during this solar maximum. By Nicola Fox, Director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division
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