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How active will the Sun get this cycle? Scientists make their prediction.

16 Sep 2020, 13:00 UTC
How active will the Sun get this cycle? Scientists make their prediction.
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

A panel of experts on the Sun has come to a unanimous conclusion: The solar cycle that has just begun will be much like the last one, perhaps breaking the trend of diminishing magnetic activity the Sun has been exhibiting over the past few decades.

The Sun has a magnetic field, generated by the movement of plasma (gas where the electrons have been stripped off their atoms by the intense heat) deep below the surface. It's not like a bar magnet, with simple north and south magnetic poles; instead it's fiercely complex, like a sack full of millions of magnets that move and slither and change shape and sometimes poke their heads above the surface.

When a parcel of magnetized plasma bubbles to the surface, it can create sunspots: slightly cooler, darker regions on the Sun's face. Over time, the number of sunspots increases and decreases on a loose cycle of about 11 years. They reach a peak number (what we call solar maximum), then wane over the next 5.5 years or so (reaching solar minimum), then start to increase again. The cycle is not at all well defined; there are times when the solar min stretches over several years, ...

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