Jun 17, 2019 11:35 AM EDT
The activity on the surface of the sun triggers space weather. As the sun follows an 11-year-old long cycle of solar maximums and minimums, there are several factors affecting space weather that worry scientists.
When the activities on the sun's surface have dropped and solar phenomena such as sunspots and solar flares decreased in frequency, a solar minimum starts to roll out. In contrast, when the sun reaches its point of maximum, about hundreds of sunspots can erupt on the surface of the sun, unleashing jets of energy towards the Earth.
According to the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), the sun is now entering its next cycle where it will reach its lowest count in 200 years.
Experts from NASA are expecting the next cycle of the sun to kick off in 2020. It will then be followed by a solar maximum five years later.
With plans to return astronauts to the moon, it is important to accurately forecast the sun's most active years as it bears a great impact on the safety of the astronauts. Experts point out that space radiation can cripple not only satellite networks and power grids, but even also pose a threat to the upcoming manned missions to the moon.
NASA is currently preparing for the Artemis program which outlines plans to send the first woman and the next man to the moon.
Experts from NASA stated that researches are currently underway and are being used to come up with a new and more precise method to predict solar activity.
The cycle of the sun is characterized by rising and falling solar activity that occurs within an 11-year cycle, with the next solar cycle at its weakest for the past 200 years. Experts point out that the maximum of this next cycle would be 30% to 50% lower than the most recent one. The standard measure of solar activity level is measured in terms of the number of sunspots.
The capability of experts to predict this kind of solar phenomena is increasingly important as the dangers of traversing space are real. In 1972, there was a sudden powerful burst of radiation that washed over space right in between the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 moon landing. NASA pointed out that although the Earth has a natural magnetic field which protected the planet from the effects of space radiation and solar activity, there is no natural barrier against such amount of radiation in outer space to provide protection to the astronauts.
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