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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

New Solar Cycle Has Begun, NASA Announces

WASHINGTON – Solar Cycle 25, a new phase in the polarity of the Sun that will determine changes in space weather and will last the next 11 years, has begun and is predicted to be as calm as the last, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported on Tuesday.

The new solar cycle began in December, but it was not until Tuesday that experts from NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed it in a presentation in which they analyzed its consequences for Earth and for astronauts in space.

The Sun is a star of hot, electrically charged gas that moves, generating a powerful magnetic field that changes polarity every 11 years, called a solar cycle.

The solar cycle affects activity on the surface of the Sun and manifests through sunspots caused by magnetic fields. As magnetic fields change, so does the amount of activity on the Sun’s surface, NASA said.

At the beginning of the solar cycle is the “solar minimum,” when the Sun has the least sunspots, or activity, but this increases over time.

“As we emerge from solar minimum and approach Cycle 25’s maximum, it is important to remember solar activity never stops; it changes form as the pendulum swings,” said Lika Guhathakurta, solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA headquarters in Washington.

The solar maximum is predicted for July 2025. The increased activity can have effects on Earth, such as aurora, impact radio communications or even affect electricity grids.

Cycle 25 is expected to be similar to the last in strength, which was a below-average cycle, but not without risk.

“Just because it’s a below-average solar cycle, doesn’t mean there is no risk of extreme space weather,” said Doug Biesecker, panel co-chair and solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

“The Sun’s impact on our daily lives is real and is there,” he stressed.

Space weather predictions are also critical in supporting the spacecraft and astronauts of the Artemis program, with which NASA plans to send the first woman to the Moon in 2024 through private companies.

“Surveying this space environment is the first step to understanding and mitigating astronaut exposure to space radiation,” said NASA, which is working on predictive models to one day be able to forecast space weather much like the weather on Earth is forecast.

“There’s no bad weather, just bad preparation,” said Jake Bleacher, chief scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “Space weather is what it is – our job is to prepare.”

 

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