Solar Cycle 25 is nearing peak: what is it, and how does it affect us?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The aurora are beautiful lights dancing across the sky, and they’re just one way that shows our Sun is an active star.

But the Sun is in the process of getting even more active: it’s called Solar Cycle 25.

“We expect it to peak sometime in the next two years,” explains Dr. Mark Miesch, Research Scientist for the Cooperative Institute for Research and Environmental Sciences, or CIRES. “It will probably peak this year but activity will remain high throughout 2024 and much of 2025.”

Dr. Miesch explains that solar cycles occur roughly every 11 years when sunspot activity increases on the surface of the Sun.

Solar Cycle 25 began in December 2019 and is one of the strongest cycles in decades.

“In the next few years, this year and next year we’re expecting the highest activity in over 20 years,” he says. “That was before the iPhone was invented.”

And think how we’ve changed since then. Solar storms associated with these solar cycles can impact satellites, GPS, radio, as well as the industries that use them. So as we become more reliant on technology, space weather has more of an impact.

“The Sun has been doing this for as long as we can determine, for at least 10,000 years,” Dr. Miesch says. “So the sun hasn’t changed, but we have.”

That doesn’t mean we have to panic: researchers and forecasters know how to work with industries so they can take precautions and protect the technology we are so reliant on.

While we may not see the aurora dance like up north, there may be some hope to see it here.

“There will be a few opportunities in the next two years to see something from as far south as North Carolina,” he says.

To keep up with all things space weather, check in with the Space Weather Prediction Center Homepage | NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center

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