Irina Kitiashvili with the NASA Solar Cycle 25 Forecast

Irina Kitiashvili with the NASA Solar Cycle 25 Forecast

Next solar cycle - Solar Cycle 25 - is expected to be the lowest in 200 years.

The forecast for the next solar cycle says it will be the weakest of the last 200 years. The maximum of this next cycle – measured in terms of sunspot number, a standard measure of solar activity level – could be 30 to 50% lower than the most recent one. The results show that the next cycle will start in 2020 and reach its maximum in 2025.

The new research was led by Irina Kitiashvili, a researcher with the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley.

It combined observations from two NASA space missions – the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and the Solar Dynamics Observatory – with data collected since 1976 from the ground-based National Solar Observatory.

Kitiashvili’s method differs from other prediction tools in terms of the raw material for its forecast. Previously, researchers used the number of sunspots to represent indirectly the activity of the solar magnetic field. The new approach takes advantage of direct observations of magnetic fields emerging on the surface of the Sun – data which has only existed for the last four solar cycles.

Mathematically combining the data from the three sources of Sun observations with the estimates of its interior activity generated a forecast designed to be more reliable than using any of those sources alone.

Featured image credit: NASA Ames Research Center


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