Solar Cycle

Solar Cycle

IISER Kolkata develops simulation to predict solar activity over 10 years.

• A team of researchers from IISER Kolkata have developed a way of predicting the intensity of activity in the next solar cycle (approximately from 2020 to 2031) using data spread over the last 100 years.

What is Solar Cycle?
The solar cycle or solar magnetic activity cycle is the nearly periodic 11-year change in the Sun’s activity (including changes in the levels of solar radiation and ejection of solar material) and appearance (changes in the number and size of sunspots, flares, and other manifestations).
• The changes on the Sun cause effects in space, in the atmosphere, and on Earth’s surface. While it is the dominant variable in solar activity, aperiodic fluctuations also occur.
• Astronomers have observed sunspots on the surface of the Sun for nearly 400 years. It is known that sunspots follow a cyclic pattern of growing in number and disappearing in approximately 11 years, known as the sunspot cycle or the Sun’s activity cycle.
• We are currently in the 24th sunspot cycle since the observation of this cycle began, in 1755.

What is the Benefit of Predicting Solar Cycle?

• It will be very important for the understanding of the long-term variations of the Sun and its impact on our climate which is one of the science objectives of Aditya mission.

  • The forecast will be also useful for scientific operational planning of the Aditya mission.

• It will also enable us to predict the effect of radiation, particle flux and magnetic flux in the region around the Sun.
• This prediction can be helpful as during extreme events, space weather can affect electronics-driven satellite controls, communications systems, air traffic over polar routes and even power grids.
• The other reason sunspots are interesting is the belief that they are correlated with climate on earth.

What Next?
• There have been speculations that the Sun may be heading towards a period of prolonged low activity – what solar physicists describe as a ‘Maunder-like minimum’.
• The Maunder minimum refers to a period from 1645 to 1715 where observers reported minimal sunspot activity — the number of sunspots reduced by a factor of nearly 1,000 over a period of 28 years.

• During this and other such periods of low activity, some parts of Europe and North America experienced lower-than-average temperatures.

• While the connection between the Maunder minimum and the climate on earth is still debated, it gives another reason to watch the sunspots.