Solar maximum arriving earlier than expected; Could bring powerful geomagnetic storms to Earth

The Sun’s activity is increasing and experts predict that the solar maximum may arrive a year earlier than expected with the possibility of powerful geomagnetic storms.

| Updated on: Oct 27 2023, 17:32 IST
Aditya -L1 Mission: ISRO’s maiden solar mission heading toward the Sun
Solar Orbites captures solar eruption
1/5 ISRO's Aditya-L1 mission, launched on September 2, 2023, marks India's inaugural dedicated mission to study the Sun's photosphere, chromosphere, and corona. The spacecraft is now en route to its ultimate destination, the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1 (L1).   (ANI)
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2/5 Lagrange points are unique positions in space where the gravitational forces of two massive bodies, in this case, the Sun and Earth, perfectly balance the centripetal force required for a smaller object, like a spacecraft, to remain in sync. These points minimize the need for orbit corrections and fuel consumption, making them ideal for scientific missions. (ANI)
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3/5 Among the five Lagrange points, L1 is especially significant because it is situated between the Sun and Earth, offering a prime location for spacecraft. This positioning enables continuous observation of both primary bodies, unbroken communication with Earth, and an unobstructed view of celestial objects. (ANI)
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4/5 Aditya-L1 will adopt a 'Halo orbit' around L1, situated approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Halo orbits are three-dimensional paths around a Lagrange Point, providing continuous visibility from Earth, resembling a halo. (ANI)
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5/5 Space missions, such as the International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3), the Genesis mission, ESA's LISA Pathfinder, China's Chang'e 5 lunar orbiter, and NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Recovery (GRAIL) mission, have previously leveraged the Sun-Earth L1 point to enhance our understanding of space and monitor space weather events. Several operational spacecraft currently occupy this location, playing a crucial role in providing early warnings about adverse space weather events, safeguarding orbiting space assets and ground-based infrastructure. (ANI)
Solar Orbites captures solar eruption
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Know when the solar maximum is arriving and what impact can it have on the Earth. (NASA)

Our Sun is one of the most active members of the solar system and its aggressive activities affect the space weather and the Earth's satellites with massive solar storms and flares. Earlier, experts believed that the solar maximum would peak around July 2025, now researchers believe that it may occur earlier and with increased intensity. For the unaware, solar maximum is the peak of a solar cycle and it arrives every 11 years. Currently, the Sun is experiencing the solar cycle 25. However, the reason behind the early arrival may help researchers find a better understanding of our host star. Know what experts say about the solar activities increasing.

Solar maximum and its early arrival

Solar maximum occurs when the Sun's activity is at its peak and it bombards the space weather and Earth with massive bright explosions which are known as flares. These flares emit harmful radiation into space. Additionally, the Sun also consists of darker-looking regions which are called sunspots that are formed when a particular region has a high amount of unstable magnetic energy, and often opposing poles in close contact. They also tend to quickly expand and explode, giving birth to solar flares and magnetic filaments. During this period the Sun also releases coronal mass ejections (CME) which can impact our satellites and disrupt wireless communication.

The solar maximum occurs after every 11 years and the upcoming peak was projected for July 2025. According to a report, NASA scientist Robert Leamon and Scott McIntosh, deputy director at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) predict that the Sun's peak will be arriving between the middle to the end of 2024 which is earlier than expected, which was in 2025. The timeline and method for predicting the peak of this solar cycle is crucial to develop an in-depth understanding of the Sun. Many prediction methods rely on the length of a cycle, but Leamon and McIntosh focused on the sunspots and their magnetic properties. The sunspot transition after the end of the cycle helps researchers study the upcoming cycle with growing spots.

How does solar maximum affect Earth?

Due to the increase in the Sun's activity, the solar flares and CMEs increase the possibility of hitting Earth. However, our magnetic field works like a protective shield that prevents the particles from reaching the Earth's surface. But still, these solar activities impact our electrical grids, satellites, and other electoral infrastructures. Now, with the Sun's activity rising, we may encounter frequent solar flares and geomagnetic storms striking the Earth.

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First Published Date: 27 Oct, 17:32 IST