Sundial: A new system determines the solar cycle using the terminator and fifths. Sunspots have been used to determine the solar cycle for 400 years. Based on their amount on the sun’s surface, it was calculated that a solar cycle, i.e. From the weakest to the strongest and weakest activity again, lasts about 11 years.
Solar flares are predicted using this calculation and observation of sunspots. If the particles emitted by the sun hit the earth’s magnetic field, solar storms can occur. Not only do these cause beautiful northern lights to appear, but depending on the intensity, they can also disrupt radio and satellite connections and even trigger voltage fluctuations in the power grid. In extreme cases, the transformer can burn down and a chain reaction can lead to a blackout.
Such dangerous solar storms can usually only be predicted for a few days. In addition, solar storms hit the earth again and again, which were not predicted at all by the responsible authorities and space agencies.
Terminator as the start and end point
Researcher Robert Leamon may have a solution to the problem. According to him, the current method of calculating the solar cycle is arbitrary and imprecise. He proposes a new system that works with fifths and is thus a kind of “sundial”, reports Space.com.
As with the previous measuring method of sundial, the cycle lasts about 11 years with his method. In Leamon, the starting and ending point of the cycle is the Terminator, rather than sunspots. The Sun’s magnetic field changes orientation with each cycle, from one pole to the other. There is always a phase where the polarity reversal is not complete. The Terminator marks the point when the old cycle magnetic field orientation has completely disappeared from the Sun’s surface.
When that point is reached, solar activity suddenly increases rapidly. According to Leamon, the Terminator can be identified very precisely. Therefore, it’s a better way of determining the start and end of the cycle, rather than sunspot activity, which is always fluctuating. Explore Images of a Black Hole.
A cycle is divided into fifths
Now that Leamon and his team have found the start and end of the cycle, they’ve looked at what happens over and over again in between. They noticed that the recurring events can be divided into fifths. The first fifth begins with the terminator, solar activity increases abruptly. In the second-fifth, solar activity breaks down briefly. By the third-fifth, dark regions will form at the Sun’s poles and solar activity will drop sharply.
The “quiet” phase begins with the fourth fifth. The number of X-class flares – the most powerful and potentially dangerous solar flare – is sharply declining. At the fifth sunspots in the photosphere reach their minimum. However, this is less constant than the other events in terms of time, because the number of sunspots fluctuates. The end of the fifth has the terminator again, which is also the beginning of the first fifth of the next cycle.
According to Leamon, everything that happens to the sun is linked to these events. These are in turn triggered by the sun’s magnetic field. The solar flares are just symptoms of what is happening to the magnetic field.
Sundial can predict dangerous eruptions more accurately
By pinpointing the cycle (Sundial) precisely using this method, it is much easier to predict X-class eruptions. Accordingly, one could avoid rocket and satellite launches when solar flares are expected – a solar storm, for example, ensured that 40 SpaceX satellites did not reach their orbit after launch and burned up. In the event of particularly strong eruptions, precautions could also be taken on earth to protect communication and electricity networks, or to reactivate them more quickly in the event of an impairment.
According to the Leamon model, the current cycle will end in October 2031 (+- 9 months). In mid-2024, the point in time should be determined more precisely based on the data collected. The last strong X-eruption in this cycle will happen in mid-2027 according to the calculations.