Those periods of activity on the sun create what's known as space weather. (Closer to the solar equator is better.) "Since we're seeing these at low latitudes, that is another indicator that we should see a weak cycle", she says.
But while they are used to mark the beginnings and endings of solar cycles, prediction of the intensity of the next solar cycle depends largely on factors other than the number of sunspots at minimum. It was only after scientists at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) informed USA leaders of the solar flare that the matter deescalated.
For the past 50 years, around four solar cycles or so, the Sun has been unusually active.
While the cycle of low and high happens over 11 years, it is more precisely a reflection of a larger 22-year cycle specified by a total reverse in the Sun's polarity.
"Just because it's a below-average solar cycle, doesn't mean there is no risk of extreme space weather", says Doug Biesecker, co-chair of the panel and solar physicist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado.
"We came to a consensus that the next solar cycle will be very similar to the last one", explains Dr. Gordon Petrie of the NSF's National Solar Observatory, who was a member of the consortium. Although it began in December 2019, it takes up to 10 months for scientists to determine when the new cycle actually began since the Sun is a variable star.
On Tuesday (September 15, 2020), the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, an worldwide group of experts, announced that a new solar cycle has begun.
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.
According to researchers, the new solar cycle began in December 2019.
Solar Cycle 25 will reach a peak sunspot number of 115 in July of 2025. As the starting points for monster blasts -, for example, Sun oriented flares or coronal mass discharges. Sunspots are dark blotches that arise from strong magnetic activity on the Sun.
This new cycle though is forecast to be about the same strength as the solar cycle that just ended, which was below-average, but not without risk.
But it also presents an opportunity for research, says Jake Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. These ejections can cause magnetic storms in the Earth's upper atmosphere, which can affect power grids, satellites, and orbiting spacecraft and astronauts.
Meanwhile, scientists are now working on predictive models so they can one day forecast space weather much like meteorologists forecast weather on Earth. The maximum is predicted to be in July 2025.
"Just as NOAA's National Weather Service makes us a weather-ready nation, what we're driving to be is a space weather-ready nation", stated Elsayed Talaat, director of Office of Projects, Planning and Analysis for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service in Silver Spring, Maryland. The studies conducted so far have shown a reduction in lighting up to five times.
Some 80 stations around the world contribute to this data and once recorded, the daily sunspot censuses are then sent for processing at the World Data Center for the Sunsport Index and Long-term Solar Observations at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels.