An international group of experts co-sponsored by NASA and NOAA announced that solar minimum occurred in December 2019, marking a new solar cycle. They stated that the sun has entered in 25th solar cycle.
During a media event, experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed how the coming upswing in space weather would impact our lives and technology on Earth, as well as astronauts in space. This solar Cycle 25 is anticipated to be as strong as the last solar cycle, which was a below-average cycle, but not without risk.
Lika Guhathakurta, a solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said, “As we emerge from solar minimum and approach Cycle 25’s maximum, it is important to remember solar activity never stops; it changes form as the pendulum swings.”
Scientists use sunspots to track solar cycle progress. Sunspots act as an indicator of solar activity, often as the origins of giant explosions – such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections – which can spew light, energy, and solar material into space.
To decide the beginning of another solar cycle, the prediction board counseled monthly data on sunspots from the World Data Center for the Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations, situated at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, which tracks sunspots and pinpoints the solar cycle’s highs and lows.
Frédéric Colette, the center’s director and one of the prediction panelists, said, “We keep a detailed record of the few tiny sunspots that mark the onset and rise of the news cycle. These are the diminutive heralds of future giant solar fireworks. It is only by tracking the general trend over many months that we can determine the tipping point between two cycles.”