The Sun, which is the source of all life on the planet, is buzzing with activity as it reaches the peak of the solar cycle. The star in our solar system in just two weeks has emitted 35 Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), 14 sunspots, and six solar flares, while some of them have been away from us, others have directly hit Earth.
Coronal mass ejection is one of the biggest eruptions from the Sun’s surface that can contain a billion tons of matter accelerated to several million miles per hour into space.
Meanwhile, sunspots are areas that appear dark on the surface of the sun. They appear dark because they are cooler than other parts of the sun’s surface. Solar flares are a sudden explosion of energy caused by tangling, crossing, or reorganizing magnetic field lines near sunspots, Nasa has said.
The solar cycle is an 11-year cycle during which the activity on the Sun ramps, reaches peak, and then goes down again, and in the last few weeks the activity has quickly ramped up and Nasa said that even though we haven’t reached peak levels in this cycle, the Sun’s activity is already exceeding predictions.
The Heliophysics Division at the American space agency is working on a mission that will provide crucial advances in our understanding of the ionosphere-thermosphere (I-T) system the Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) and provide the first coordinated global-scale observations of the I-T region, where the effects of solar activity are often seen.
“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,” Nasa has said in a blog update.
WHAT IS SOLAR CYCLE?
Understanding the Sun’s behaviour and its evolution is critical to not just understanding the evolution of the solar system, but also the evolution of life on Earth, and the Sun has a life cycle. Known as the Solar cycle, it describes the activity of the Sun which transitions from relatively calm to active and stormy, and then quiet again.
This 11-year cycle is characterized, according to Nasa, by eruptions known as solar flares and coronal mass ejections—which can disturb the satellites and communications signals traveling around Earth. The peak of the solar cycle is known as solar maximum, when the Sun’s magnetic poles flip, while Solar minimum refers to a quiet Sun.
SPACE WEATHER GOES THROUGH CHANGES
Nasa has said that as activities ramp up on the Sun, it will explode with more eruptions as more and more sunspots take shape.
“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,” Nasa has said.
The solar activity could affect over 35,000 objects orbiting in the ionosphere-thermosphere region around our planet, including the International Space Station.