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The Sun Is Waking Up — Right On Schedule?

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Sunspots [image credit: NASA]

The Sun may still have a surprise or two for solar cycle 25 theorists, but what we hear is: “I believe this will likely be the best forecast to come out of one of the NOAA/NASA Cycle prediction panels.” The article below doesn’t include the question mark in its headline.
– – –
The Sun is waking up,
says Sky and Telescope.

In recent weeks, NASA has announced X-class solar flares, observers have seen large sunspot groups with the unaided eye, and online services have issued multiple aurora alerts even for mid-latitudes.

After years of quiescence — the Sun was more often spotless than not in 2018, 2019, and 2020 — the change of pace is exciting solar observers.

The Sun goes through 11-year cycles of magnetically instigated activity, which include sunspots, flares, and massive eruptions. While such activity last peaked around 2012 through 2014, that maximum was meager at best. In fact, it marked one of the quietest cycles in 100 years.

Now, the uptick in activity seems to mark a change in the Sun’s behavior. Lisa Upton (Space Systems Research Corporation), co-chair of the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, says that for the first time in 50 years, this solar cycle seems to be stronger than the one before it.

She and colleague David Hathaway are predicting that this cycle will be up to 30% more active.

“This may mean that we have reached the inflection point in the current Gleissberg cycle and might start to see bigger cycles,” Upton speculates. “It’s a bit too early to say for sure, though.”

However, she emphasizes that we shouldn’t expect too much from the Sun’s current activity. “The cycle is following very nicely along the strongest/earliest of [the panel’s] predictions and is certainly on track to be another weak cycle,” she adds.

“We still consider this cycle to be below average,” confirms panel co-chair Doug Biesecker (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). “Even with the recent activity, the sunspot number is still within the error bars of the solar cycle prediction from the panel.”
. . .
“We should have a very interesting Sun to see during the 2024 Great American Eclipse,” Upton says, “certainly very different from the 2017 Great American Eclipse.”

Full article here.


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