Scientists Predict Solar Maximum Phenomenon to Peak in 2025, Bringing Extreme Space Weather

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Scientists are predicting that in the year 2025, the phenomenon known as the Solar Maximum will occur. This event marks the peak of solar activity, where the sun’s magnetic field reaches its strongest and most irregular state.

This increased solar activity can cause extreme space weather events, including solar flares and eruptions, which can disrupt radio communication and power grids, as well as pose serious health consequences for astronauts.

The danger of this phenomenon is primarily on large-scale infrastructure, as individuals on Earth do not directly feel the effects of the sun’s unstable magnetic field. Matthew Owens, a space physics professor at the University of Reading who studies space science and weather related to solar activity, explains that the upcoming Solar Maximum is likely to be stronger than the previous one, which occurred between 2012 and 2014 and was one of the weakest in the last century.

The solar cycle typically lasts for 11 years, and the Solar Maximum occurs approximately in the middle of each cycle. During the previous Solar Maximum, the space weather was generally weaker than usual. However, scientists predict that the next Solar Maximum will return to the average, meaning that there will be more impacts on space weather and potential related consequences.

The activity of the sun occurs due to the movement of plasma inside it, which creates and transforms the sun’s magnetic field. The magnetic field reaches its peak strength during the Solar Maximum period, resulting in increased events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Solar flares consist of high-energy photons, such as X-rays, which can increase ionization in the upper atmosphere of the Earth and disrupt radio communication.

On the other hand, eruptions of the sun’s magnetic field and material trigger geomagnetic storms. Disruptions in the Earth’s magnetic field can damage power distribution networks. The upcoming Solar Maximum will also show more bursts of highly energetic particles moving towards Earth, which will occur around four times larger and more frequently.

Since the particles in these bursts are radiation, they pose a significant health risk to astronauts, passengers, and crew members in high-altitude and high-latitude aircraft. They can also damage space hardware and cause the loss of satellites. Many effects of the Solar Maximum are temporary. For example, it is often difficult to conclusively link power grid issues with space weather – even if solar activity does cause these problems.

One concrete effect that can be predicted is that people are likely to see the Northern and Southern Lights more often on different latitudes during the Solar Maximum. During this period, the increasing number of solar particles interacting with molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere causes brighter auroras, which can stretch further north or south than usual.