We are currently in the climax of the 11-year solar cycle, “solar maximum.” In other words, the Sun’s face should be full of pockmarks. A solar maximum is when the Sun’s insides are really churning. We visibly see these effects with numerous sunspots (those blemishes on the Sun’s surface) and spikes in x-rays being emitted from the solar surface. But here’s what the Sun looks like right now…
Empty. Where are all of the sunspots in this height of solar activity? Space scientists are asking themselves the same question.
A big worry of many space scientists is that we’ll get a huge solar storm (a blast of high energy particles flung directly towards Earth). In such an advanced technological age, such prophesied solar wind events could wipe out our super-connected infrastructure; essentially anything electronic would malfunction. Imagine the consequences.
Scientists have devised an 11-year solar cycle of sorts. It charts the ups and downs in solar activity. Year 11 is the summit of such activity…and right now we’re in year 11. The good news is, such a powerful solar storm cannot happen unless the Sun starts to roar. Sunspots are the first indication something is about to happen. With a clean-skinned Sun, we have nothing to worry about…but our imperfect 11-year solar cycle!
We still know very little about what goes on inside the Sun. Vast amounts of research are being done all around the globe, in hopes of getting a better glimpse of just how our beloved star, shines.
- Kansas First News Storm Track Meteorologist, Kyle Borchert