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The Sun will reach its maximum activity in just one month

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Artist’s impression of a coronal plasma ejection impacting Earth. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Image Library; Getty Images/RF Scientific Image Library
Sergio Messina Sergio Messina 6 minutes

The level of fibrillation increases as we approach the maximum peak of solar activity. Even more so when it turns out this will happen even a year ago. If the calculations of a recent study are correct, Already in the first months of 2024, the Sun will present a “spectacle” of maximum intensity of its magnetic phenomena.

But let’s go in order.

Solar cycle

We’ve known this for centuries The Sun exhibits cyclic behavior that repeats itself with an average period of 11 years. in the middle, For 5 and a half years, the number of sunspots increases Reaching the maximum value (peak cycle) Then it gradually decreased over the next five and a half years. And then a new cycle begins again.

The numbering of solar cycles (by number of spots) dates back to the middle of the 18th century. Solar cycle 1 began around 1755. The current solar cycle – the 25th – began in late 2019/early 2020.

But it’s not just about sunspots.

It is the entire solar atmosphere that gradually becomes richer and richer in magnetic fields (produced within the Sun). Magnetic energy is converted into thermal energy, sometimes explosively, giving rise to explosive phenomena such as Solar flares And the Coronal plasma emission.

Solar cycle
Comparison of maximum (left) and minimum (right) solar activity in the photosphere (above) and in the chromosphere (below). NASA

The solar cycle mainly depends on an internal mechanism called a dynamoWhich produces and intensifies the magnetic field inside the sun. Intense magnetic field It gradually rises to the surface and appears e It leads to the formation of sunspots (These are nothing more than areas where the magnetic field has come to the surface.)

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Sunspots are areas of the Sun’s surface where the internal magnetic field is prominent, causing it to cool, making it dark compared to the non-magnetic areas surrounding it.

So, The action of the dynamo generates and intensifies the magnetic field for 5 and a half yearsWith the consequent increase in spots and explosive phenomena Over the next five years, the magnetic field decayswith a consequent reduction in spots and explosive phenomena.

but, At each start of the cycle, the solar magnetic field reverses completely, and the magnetic north pole becomes the magnetic south pole (It takes 22 years to restore the initial formation.) While the macular cycle lasts an average of 11 years, the macular cycle lasts an average of 22 years.

Implications on the ground

As it was said, The peak of Cycle 25 is approaching, and will arrive sooner than expectedAnd the tremors increase. What alerts scientists is the consequences of the peak of the sun’s activity, in particular, What will happen is an increase in the frequency and intensity of solar flares and the resulting mass coronal emissions.

It results from these two phenomena Emission of high energy radiation And Emission of electrical particles With high intensity flows.

The Earth is protected from these dangersrespectively, From the ozone layer Able to block solar X-rays, e.g From the Earth’s magnetic field Able to transform the flow of electrical particles.

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However, as has happened in the past, some of these events are particularly severe enough to cause significant impacts on communications and the power grid.

What was recently discovered

Dynamo mechanism Which works internally with the sun and generates and intensifies the magnetic field with a periodicity of 11 years. It converts the solar magnetic field into a poleward (Hence with lines coming out of one pole and entering the opposite pole, like the Earth’s magnetic field) In a toroidal magnetic fieldThat is, with lines wrapped around the equator.

Solar magnetic field
A schematic representation of how the Sun’s internal rotation transforms the initially weak, poloidal field (left image) into an intense toroidal field (right image).

In the study published last week in the Monthly Notices of the Letters of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers Jaswal, Saha and Nandy of the Kolkata-based Indian Institute of Science Education and Research discovered a new relationship between the increase in the number of spots and the rate of decline of the Sun’s dipole magnetic field.

Use of archival data On the number of spots and the intensity of the poloidal field They were able to provide more accurate predictions about the date of the peak of the current solar cyclewhich is supposed to take place in the first months of 2024, approximately a year earlier than previous estimates.

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