OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – The beautiful spectacle known as the northern lights could see an uptick in strength during this latest cycle, as new models have increased the frequency of sunspots, according to an article published by NewsNation.
John Beaver, a Physics and Astronomy professor at UW Oshkosh, explains the science behind these sunspots:
“Through a proper filter, it looks like a dark spot on the sun. It’s actually a place where the sun’s bright surface is a little bit cooler and makes it look dark only in contrast to the blazing bright of the rest of it. It’s a kink in the sun’s magnetic field which has cooled down the gasses right there. And all of these sunspots are an example of solar activity and all of this is caused by the sun’s magnetic field interacting with hot gasses in very complicated ways”.
Solar Cycle 25 began in early January of 2020, which should take 11 years to complete. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, this cycle was expected to see an average number of sunspots around 110-115, which would be the same strength as the cycle before it, Cycle 24. However, updated models based on recent sunspot observations have resulted in speculation that a total of over 200 sunspots could be spotted on the sun at its maximum during late 2024, says NASA.
These cycles, Beaver says, have a quick rise from their lowest amount of sunspots to their maximum, and then slowly return to their minimum before the next cycle begins.
Although these models have changed to a stronger outcome, Beaver says there is still some skepticism that we will see many sunspots as forecasting these is very tricky:
“Sunspots you can’t know when one will happen exactly and where it will happen but you do know that over a cycle of 11 years, you get more and more of them on average and then less and less of them.”
If we do see the new expected amount of sunspots, how could this impact the northern lights during this cycle?
“So in the next sunspot maximum which should peak by the end of next year or so, if that is a strong maximum, we have a better chance at seeing a strong northern lights”, says Beaver.
The current status of the sun and short-term forecasts of the northern lights can be found on the Space Weather Prediction Center website.