While we suffer from coronavirus on earth, our star – the sun – has a lock of its own. Weltraumwetter.com reports that in 2020 there were already 100 days when our sun showed no sunspots.
That makes 2020 the second straight year with a record-breaking low number of sunspots – that you can see (a complete absence of) Here.
Note: Never look at the sun with the naked eye or through binoculars or a telescope without a solar filter.
We are also in one eternal sunshine of the flawless kind?
“That is a sign that solar minimum is in progress, ”it says SpaceWeather.com. “This year the sun was empty 76% of the time this year, a rate that has only been exceeded once in the space age. Last year, 2019, the sun was empty 77% of the time. Two consecutive years of record-breaking flawlessness do in fact add up to a very low solar minimum. ”
What does it all mean? Here is everything you need to know about the sun, the solar cycle, and what a deep solar minimum means to us.
What is a sunspot?
It is an area of intense magnetic activity on the sun’s surface – a storm – that appears as an area of darkness. Sunspots are an indication of solar activity, birth Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Although sunspots appear like tiny spots, they can be colossal in size.
Sunspots have been counted daily since 1838, allowing solar scientists to describe a repetitive pattern in the growth and decline of activity on the sun’s surface – the Solar cycle.
What is the solar cycle?
The sun has a cycle that lasts between nine and 14 years – usually an average of 11 years – and right now we are bottomed out. At the height of this cycle – called Solar maximum– The sun produces more electrons and protons than huge solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
From a visual point of view, the solar cycle is a “sunspot cycle” because solar scientists can measure where the sun is in its cycle by counting sunspots on its surface.
How does the solar cycle affect the earth?
While there is some evidence that the solar cycle affects the earth’s weather and climate, the position of the sun has the most significant influence on the intensity and frequency of auroras. The more charged the solar wind is heading towards the earth, the brighter and more frequent they are Displays of northern lights and southern lights. The so-called polar oval is also getting bigger so that people who live in areas that normally do not have auroras, such as the USA and Western Europe, can sometimes see them.
However, a solar maximum is historically the time when the northern lights are most common and spectacular.
What is a “solar minimum”?
Just as the solar maximum has many sunspots, the valley of the solar minimum has zero sunspots – and that is exactly what is happening now. However, it takes a little longer than expected, which means that the sun is in the middle of a particularly deep solar minimum. The most notorious happened between 1645 and 1715 when a “Maunder minimum“Saw a prolonged sunspot minimum when sunspots were very rare over an extended period of time.
The current record-breaking solar minimum is part of a longer pattern of growth and decline; in fact, it is believed that the sun may have been in a magnetic lull for the past 9,000 years at least.
When is the next “solar maximum”?
It is believed that the sun will reach its solar maximum in the mid-2020s, although the exact time of the sunspot frequency will peak. This can usually only be described in retrospect. The last solar maximum was 2013/2014, but was ranked among the weakest has always been.
One way to visually gauge what’s going on is to count sunspots – and the other is to look at the mighty sun corona during a total solar eclipse.
Fortunately, someone in North America comes up on cue.
How the solar cycle affects solar eclipses
During a total solar eclipse, it is possible to see clearly with the naked eye where the sun is in its cycle. Totality – when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright disk – offers a glimpse of the sun’s corona, its hot outer atmosphere. During the solar minimum, the corona is relatively small and firmly attached to the surface. D.During the solar maximum, the sun’s corona is usually expanded and extends into space.
How to see explosions on the sun
When the sun is at the solar maximum, the likelihood of seeing protrusions – huge solar flares and coronal mass ejections in action – around the edge of the moon is increased during a total solar eclipse.
Here is a picture (above) of some pink protrusions that can only be seen with the naked eye during a total solar eclipse.
Why is this good news for North American eclipse hunters?
All of this is in time for the next total solar eclipse in North America on April 8, 2024, as the sun is approaching its solar maximum by then.
The 100 mile wide Path of Totality will offer breathtaking views (clear skies) of a flared and elongated corona from anyone within the moon’s shadow during the 139 minutes it travels overland:
Mexico: Sinaloa, Durango and Coahuila
US: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Canada: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Wish you had a clear sky and big eyes.