The strength of solar cycles—the intervals during which the Sun’s power increases and decreases over a decade—can now be predicted by scientists using a new method.
Sunspots are responsible for the Sun’s strong flares; they appear and vanish roughly every 11 years. These are concentrations of magnetic forces that have emerged from the solar interior and are typically found in pairs, each with a positive and negative pole.
These eruptions, which have frequently interfered with satellite launches, are capable of releasing 100,000 times more energy than all the power plants on Earth produce in a year.
At a cost of about $50 million, 40 SpaceX satellites were recently ejected from orbit by a solar storm, and numerous smaller CubeSats also failed to reach their destination.
The magnetic field-measuring Swarm constellation of the European Space Agency began descending into the atmosphere at a rate ten times faster than usual over the past year.
According to Anja Stromme, the Swarm mission manager for the European Space Agency, “in the last five, six years, the satellites were sinking about two and a half kilometers [1.5 miles] a year.”
But they have been practically diving since December of last year. 20 kilometers (12 miles) per year have been lost between December and April.
However, given that the maximum growth rate of sunspot activity is a sign of how potent the cycle may be, it may now be possible to predict these cycles.
Furthermore, when the two hemispheres of the Sun are taken into account separately rather than jointly, solar cycle predictions are more accurate.
“The 11-year solar cycle and our sun’s powerful eruptions are both driven by the magnetic field of the sun. Our research has taught us that using hemispheric sunspot data, which captures the asymmetric and out-of-phase behavior of the solar magnetic field evolution in the north and south solar hemispheres, allows us to make more precise predictions of solar activity “Astrid Veronig, a professor at the University of Graz and the director of the Kanzelhöhe Observatory for Solar and Environmental Research, was a study co-author and spoke to Phys.
The research helped engineers on the ground get ready for extreme weather events that might affect power grids, communication systems, and the internet. It also helped scientists understand how the cycle evolved.
Solar superstorms that could result in catastrophic internet outages occur once every century as a result of the Sun’s natural life cycle; unfortunately, our own infrastructure is not completely protected against them.
“The optical fiber in today’s long-distance Internet cables is resistant to GIC. In addition, these cables have electrically powered repeaters spaced out by 100 km that are vulnerable to damage, according to Dr. Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California. The current Internet infrastructure’s resistance to the threat posed by coronal mass ejections is unknown to us.