24/7 Space News
What the next solar maximum means for you
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center released a revised prediction for solar activity during Solar Cycle 25. The new Experimental Solar Cycle Prediction issued on Oct. 25 concludes that solar activity will increase more quickly and peak at a higher level than previously predicted The updated prediction calls for Solar Cycle 25 to peak between January and October of 2024, with a maximum sunspot number between 137 and 173. (NOAA)
What the next solar maximum means for you
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 29, 2024

Much like the Earth, our Sun is a dynamic body with a complex - and sometimes violent - weather system. Solar storms eject highly energetic radiation that can impact our planet, forming strong auroras and disrupting power grids, electronics, and satellites.

The scientific study of space weather attempts to understand, track, and forecast this solar activity, which peaks with the solar maximum every 11 years. The current solar cycle is predicted to peak in 2024. So, what might this mean for you?

Solar power to the max
From Earth, the Sun appears relatively constant. It rises and sets, providing a steady stream of energy that sustains almost all life on our planet. But when viewed in other wavelengths, such as radio or X-rays, it becomes clear the Sun is changing all the time.

Electrically conductive plasma churns and flows beneath the surface, forming powerful bundles of magnetic fields. When these rise to the surface, they create sunspots - dark patches of cooler plasma. Sunspots are an important tool in tracking the likelihood of a major space weather event.

Dr Mark Cheung is CSIRO's Science Director for Space and Astronomy, and explained "magnetic fields within sunspots are comparable in strength to an MRI machine, but the size of entire planets.

When sunspots collide, it stresses the magnetic bundles until they snap. This lead to solar flares and eruptions. Ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from flares puff up our outer atmosphere, reaching Earth in under nine minutes. This radiation increases drag on satellites and can also disturb the ionosphere, causing radio blackouts and leading to strong auroras.

Heavier particles, such as protons, take around 15 minutes to reach the Earth. These 'Solar Energetic Particles' can damage the electronics of satellites in orbit. They can even increase the radiation dose experienced by passengers and crew on flights near the poles.

In more extreme cases, entire bundles of magnetic plasma - a coronal mass ejection (CME) - can be flung toward Earth. CMEs travel at thousands of kilometres per second. If aligned just right with the Earth's magnetosphere, they can have an enormous impact.

"The bundles of magnetic fields and charged materials can hit us like ringing a bell, intensely shaking Earth's magnetosphere," Mark said.

"Regional power blackouts could occur, satellites could sustain heavy damage, and oil pipelines could experience faster corrosion."

Sunspot numbers wax and wane over an 11-year cycle, with the greatest number appearing during solar maximum. More sunspots mean more collisions, leading to stronger space weather.

Identify, track, predict
Flares are rated on a scale from A, B, C, M, to X - with X being the strongest.

An X2.8 flare in mid-December 2023 was quickly eclipsed on 1 January 2024, with the same location birthing an X5.0 flare. This is the strongest flare seen since 2017.

"That was by far the biggest fireworks in the Solar System - a good way to ring in 2024," Mark said.

While typically only visible in the far north and far south of the globe, stronger flares and CMEs can make auroras visible closer to the equator. And with solar activity increasing as we head towards the maximum, skywatchers can expect to see more auroras. Keep looking up!

The science of predicting individual flare events is advancing rapidly, thanks to a raft of terrestrial and space-based observatories, along with machine learning for space weather forecasting.

A coordinated effort
The Bureau of Meteorology is the Australian Government's lead agency in space weather and operates the Australian Space Weather Forecasting Centre.

Through the Forecasting Centre, the Bureau provides space weather information and warning services to potentially affected industries, government agencies, including the Department of Defence, Department of Home Affairs and National Situation Room, and the community.

Its capability is focused on severe to extreme events that may threaten critical infrastructure, including radio communications, satellite operations, GPS navigation, mineral exploration, pipeline protection and electricity supply networks. The Bureau works closely with the space industry and operations that can be affected by space weather events - such as the aviation, energy, defence and telecommunication industries - to tailor forecasts and warnings to their specific needs.

The Bureau's Space Weather Observation Network spans the Australasian region and Antarctica, and includes the Learmonth Solar Observatory, a network of magnetometers, riometers and ionosondes to provide continuous, real-time observations, and global navigation satellite system total electron content scintillation monitors. The Bureau also exchanges data with Australian and international organisations.

Accurate and timely warnings are important to provide airlines time to re-route planes, satellite operators time to tweak their orbits, and communities the opportunity to prepare for power or radio blackouts.

Related Links
Solar-Cycle-25 at NOAA
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
ISRO's Aditya-L1 enters Halo Orbit for Solar Studies
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Jan 10, 2024
India's ambitious journey into solar exploration has achieved a significant milestone. The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) maiden solar mission, Aditya-L1, has successfully reached its designated orbit in space, enabling continuous observation of the Sun. This achievement marks a critical step in India's expanding space exploration capabilities. Launched in early September last year, Aditya-L1 has been on a trajectory towards the Sun. It has now settled into a halo orbit around the Sun ... read more

NASA's latest experiments aboard ISS aim to boost life in space

Sierra Space unveils full-scale prototype of expandable space station structure

ISS set to receive enhanced HPE Supercomputer

Salad in space? New study says it's not a healthy choice

NorthStar's situational awareness satellite constellation set for first launch

CAS Space achieves new milestone with Kinetica 1 Y3 launch deploying 5 satellites

Spain's PLD Space Selected for European Institutional Space Launch Contracts

Equatorial Launch Australia unveils advanced horizontal integration facility

After Three Years on Mars, NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter Mission Ends

NASA helicopter's mission ends after three years on Mars

New Year, New images from Perseverance on Mars

Polka Dots and Sunbeams: Sol 4078

Shenzhou 18 and 19 crews undertake intensive training for next missions

Tianzhou 6 burns up safely reentering Earth

Yan Hongsen's future dreams as 'Rocket Boy'

China's Tianzhou 7 docks with Tiangong Space Station

Sidus ships LizzieSat to Vandenberg for upcoming SpaceX launch

Into the Starfield

Booz Allen Ventures Invests in Albedo's groundbreaking VLEO satellite technology

Small solar sails could be the next 'giant leap' for interplanetary space exploration

ESA's Innovative Metal 3D Printer Arrives at ISS

SmallCAT Laser Terminal Demonstrates Effective Space-Earth Communication in LEO

Netherlands Leads in Laser Satellite Communication with TNO's Latest Compact Terminal Achievement

Rice study shows coal-based product could replace sand in concrete

NASA's Hubble Finds Water Vapor in Small Exoplanet's Atmosphere

New Insights into Earth's Earliest Life Forms Discovered in Palaeoarchaean Rock Samples

Revolutionizing Chemistry: Over 4 Billion Early-Life Reactions Simulated via Blockchain

Shallow soda lakes show promise as cradles of life on Earth

New images reveal what Neptune and Uranus really look like

Researchers reveal true colors of Neptune, Uranus

The PI's Perspective: The Long Game

Webb rings in the holidays with the ringed planet Uranus

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.