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The activity cycle of the sun – where the number of sunspots increase and decrease – has been monitored regularly for around 250 years, but the use of space-based telescopes has given us a whole new perspective of our nearest star.
On 22 December 2017 the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) reached 22 years in space. That duration is significant because it is the average length of the complete solar magnetic cycle. sunspot cycles are known to occur over about 11 years, but the full cycle is double this length owing to the behaviour of the magnetic fields. The sun's polarity gradually changes through its cycle, so that after 11 years the orientation of the field will have flipped between the northern and southern hemispheres. At the end of a 22-year cycle, the orientation of the magnetic field is the same as it was at the start.
Image - Snapshot - Sun - Spring - Extreme
Each image shown here is a snapshot of the sun taken every spring with the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on SOHO. Observing in the ultraviolet reveals the sun's corona – the extremely hot atmosphere,...
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