Comprehensive coverage

solar max

Ariel Eisenhandler

On the right: the sun as seen in the years 1991-1995 - a compilation of X-ray images 120 days apart. On the left: how the Earth's magnetosphere protects against radiation

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What is solar maximum?

Scientists noticed that the sun goes through cycles and changes by observing sunspots, the dark and relatively cooler parts of the sun. The number of sunspots can be a measure of the sun's activity. The average number of visible sunspots changes over time, waxing and waning in a regular cycle that ranges from 9.5 years to 11 years, 10.8 years on average. Heinrich Schwabe, an amateur astronomer, was the first to notice this cycle in 1843. The part of the cycle where the number of active sunspots is low is called "solar minimum" while the part of the cycle where the number of active sunspots is high is called "solar maximum" maximum). Scientists believe that the last solar maximum was in 2000.

Solar flares and CME clouds

While sunspots have historically been a measure of solar activity, other features of the sun increase in number and intensity along with fluctuations in the structure of the sun's magnetic field. Massive coronal mass ejections (CME: Coronal mass ejections) as well as solar eruptions with great energy become a matter of routine during the period of solar maximum and their intensity increases. This increase in solar activity can affect us, the Earth as well as the orbit around it, and is known as space weather.

Effects on KDVA

Normally, the Earth's magnetic field protects it from most of the Sun's emissions, but during periods of strong solar activity, geomagnetic storms can produce spectacular displays of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis). Geomagnetic storms can interfere with radio transmissions and affect a network of power lines: strong electromagnetic bombardments can interfere with the transmission of radio waves and the flow of electric current in power lines. Radio operators are familiar with the solar maximum phenomenon and have to deal with an increase in static in radio broadcasts. Sometimes radio signals disappear completely. Power lines can become overloaded due to these bombs: at the solar peak of 1989, the power lines supplying power to the province of Quebec in Canada were completely downed due to a geomagnetic storm.

Jamming satellites

Satellites are outside the protective range of the Earth's atmosphere and are therefore particularly vulnerable to strong geomagnetic storms resulting from solar activity. According to the astrophysicist David Dearborn: "While the energetic and accelerated gas particles come into contact with the magnetic field of the Earth, they "slide" around the Earth and create sheets of current (electrical - AA) and the satellites have to deal with them . Satellites move in space from an area of ​​one electric charge to an area of ​​another electric charge. As they cross these boundaries, the satellite's surface can suddenly change polarity (while moving into a region of a different electric field). An arc is formed and electric currents flow through the satellite in forbidden places. This could be very bad for the satellite."
In addition to these polarity changes, which can damage delicate electronics in satellites, the increased solar emissions can cause the Earth's atmosphere to "gasp" - which causes an increased attraction of the satellites' orbits. This pull causes the satellites' orbits to decay too fast than planned. "Skylab", a space station weighing over 100 tons, is a good example: it was launched in 1973 with the aim of remaining in orbit until the 80s. Skylab's main purpose, in addition to other purposes, was to study the Sun. Ironically, due to increased solar activity, Skylab entered the atmosphere as NASA in 1979, showering debris over the Indian Ocean and parts of Western Australia.

For the original article in English on an educational website
The solar knower

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