Sometimes the spots are not visible at all. This was the case for 80 days of the first six months of the current solar cycle, which started in December 2019.
Solar Cycle (File Photo/NASA)
The Sun’s magnetic field and associated solar activity are known as sunspots, flares, solar wind, and coronal ejections. Such events are often weaker and less frequent during minimum solar activity while they are more frequent and stronger during maximum solar activity.
The magnetic field on the Sun can fluctuate over very different periods of time, ranging from a second to billions of years. When astronomers talk of a ‘slowdown’ in the Sun’s activity, it does not mean that the Sun will stop shining. The Sun has a special rhythm, which lasts about 11 years, in which its polar magnetic field changes polarity. Sunspots act as indicators of this change. In fact, it is also often referred to as the ‘sunspot cycle’.
Sunspots first seen in 1609
Sunspots were first observed in detail from 1609 onwards by Galileo, Christoph Skinner and others. According to the British Library, the cyclical nature of their appearance and disappearance was first noted in 1775 by the Danish astronomer Christian Horebo. It was rediscovered in 1843 by Heinrich Schwabe.
In 1848, the Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolff used Schwabe and other results to calculate the 11-year cycle. Also made my own observations and used a mathematical method to calculate the number of sunspots. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this so-called “wolf number” is still in use today.
Spots not seen in the initial days
Many other astronomers of the time either observed this cycle independently or were inspired by the results of others. Wolf’s calculations of the Sunspot cycle from 1755 to 1766 were considered the first calculations. Since then each sunspot cycle is being counted. We are currently in Solar Cycle or Sunspot Cycle 25.
Sometimes the spots are not visible at all. This was the case for 80 days of the first six months of the current solar cycle, which started in December 2019. Whereas cycle 24 had 281 spot-free days. The period from 1645 to 1715 saw a significant reduction in sunspot numbers where they could be counted on both hands.
80 percent more sunspots than before
Because of this lack of information, Wolf tried hard to piece together the solar cycles before the mid-1700s. However, this did not mean that the sunspots were not being seen. Many astronomers continued to make observations. This 70-year ‘solar slot’ was later noted by German astronomer Gustav Sporer, which later inspired the British-Irish husband and wife team Edward and Annie Mander. According to the Encyclopdia Britannica, this period has since been named the Maunder minimum.
Cycle 25 in 2020 had 80 percent more sunspots than the equivalent period of cycle 24. This is a sign that the current cycle may actually be strengthening rather than weakening. The International Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel said in September 2020 that they expect Cycle 25 to be as strong as Cycle 24.
It may take three years for the cycle to start
According to panel co-chair Doug Biseker, the general consensus is still that the current cycle will be similar to Cycle 24. He said that we did not see anything different or special in the initial phase of this cycle which is different from the panel prediction of 115 sunspots in July 2025. Bisekar said it could take up to three years for the cycle to begin before we can say with confidence whether the prediction is still valid.
Guhathakurta believes that this chakra is no different from the normal. He said that looking at the sunspots, I think this solar cycle is not unusual, especially in the context of the previous cycle. This chakra is copying that. You see cycles like this even in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Successfully predicting solar weather is essential when examining scientific theories about how the Sun works, but there are some challenges to doing so. Strong solar flare events and coronal mass ejections can damage modern technology.
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