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What is ‘Solar Minimum’ and why is it happening now?

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

What is ‘Solar Minimum’ and why is it happening now?

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Meaning, features and reasons behind, relevance and implications.

Context: The sun is said to have gone into a state called the ‘solar minimum’ and is about to enter the deepest period of ‘sunshine recession’ as sunspots are virtually not visibly at all.

Some reports suggest that it has been almost 100 days this year when the sun has shown zero sunspots.

Solar_minimum

What is solar minimum and why is it happening now?

Sun has a cycle that lasts on average 11 years, and right now we are at the peak of that cycle.

Every 11 years or so, sunspots fade away, bringing a period of relative calm. This is called the solar minimum. And it’s a regular part of the sunspot cycle.

Implications:

While intense activity such as sunspots and solar flares subside during solar minimum, that doesn’t mean the sun becomes dull. Solar activity simply changes form. For instance, during solar minimum we can see the development of long-lived coronal holes.

But, this may cause health risks to astronauts travelling through space as “the sun’s magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from these cosmic rays.”

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. What are solar flares?
  2. What are sunspots?
  3. How solar flares affect earth’s magnetic field?
  4. What is sun’s 11 year cycle?

Sources: times now.