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The sun's activity influences environmental conditions in space adversely affecting satellites and space-based technologies such as telecommunications and navigational networks. The sun is also the primary natural source of energy for the Earth's climate. The sun's activity level changes but predicting these changes has been challenging. Now a team of two scientists from the Center of Excellence in Space Sciences India at IISER Kolkata has come out with a prediction for the upcoming sunspot cycle which reveals the expected conditions in space over the next decade. Their research work appears today in the journal Nature Communications.
Just like weather on Earth, there is weather in space. The sun radiates light in various colours, including some that we cannot perceive such as UV rays and X-rays. A constant stream of charged particles consisting of electrons and protons also flows out from the sun permeating the solar system. Sometimes the sun releases vast magnetic storms that speed towards Earth at astonishing speeds. These space storms can cripple satellites, trip electric power grids and lead to large-scale telecommunication breakdowns. It has been known for some time that the cycle of sunspots control all these aspects of solar activity and determines its influence on our space environment and climate. Astrophysicists have been attempting for decades to devise intelligent methods of predicting the future occurrence of sunspots.
Sunspots - Times - Size - Earth - Fields
Sunspots are about ten times the size of Earth and have magnetic fields which are ten thousand times stronger. These spots have been observed through telescopes since the times of Galileo and these observations show that there is a cycle of sunspots with some cycles being stronger or weaker than average. The current sunspot cycle dubbed as solar cycle 24 is just ending and it has been one of the weakest cycles in a century. In fact, over the last...
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