Just when the world did not know how to deal with a stubborn lethal pandemic, space research centers reported a new undergoing astronomical phenomenon. SpaceWeather recently found that it had been a good hundred days without any major solar activity on the Sun, consequently giving us zero sunspots in images. The violent nature of solar activity on our dear star has drastically plummeted in the last few months – sparking fears in the already paranoid common man for ice age and famine. Scientists are referring to the ongoing phenomenon as the “Great Solar Minimum”. But is this decrease in solar activity something to be afraid of? Summer 2020 is being feared as a summer without sun, but do not panic just yet, as we will shed more light on what is actually going on.
Reduced activity on the solar surface has sparked fears of a doomsday mini ice age https://t.co/K27tOJolRD
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) May 15, 2020
What is a solar minimum?
As surprising as it might sound, a solar minimum is a fairly common occurrence at our Sun. Rather, it is a part of the Sun’s 11 year solar cycle. It is the time of the cycle when most of the volatile and highly exothermic reactions stop for some period of time. This results in less emission of highly energetic UV rays but does not noticeably affect Earth’s temperature nor its climate.
This interesting solar cycle is actively fueled by Sun’s magnetic poles which tend to switch positions entirely after every 11.07 years. This means that after every 11.07 years, Sun’s north pole becomes the south pole and vice versa. And when this happens, it means that the magnetic field is at its weakest, resulting in a solar minimum.
You have probably went through a couple or more solar minimums in your lifetime without even noticing. This is because these happenings do not affect the frequency or energy of the radiations coming to earth because this phenomenon does not last long enough for Sun to lose much of its energy. Furthermore, after solar minimum, comes the advent of a solar maximum – and then, sun gets its sparkle back.
Technically, a solar minimum has advantages rather than disadvantages. Lesser solar activity accounts for lesser cosmic debris ending up above the Earth’s atmosphere, which decreases the resistance for our man-made satellites. And because most of the activity on our Sun leads to electromagnetic distortions, solar minimums can result in better communication networks on Earth, better GPS and much healthier radio signals. An aesthetic advantage that we lose during these times however, is the lose of auroras, which are caused by highly ionizing particles coming from a very busy Sun.
So why is everybody concerned?
The notion that summer 2020 is being feared as a summer without sun holds a trivial weight. By now you might be imagining that this occurrence is not really significant – but hold on. The problem this time, is the fact that this solar minimum is the deepest and greatest solar minimum since the 1650s. In 1650s, Earth saw a similar activity from our Sun, and that resulted in a mini ice age causing a famine resulting in millions of deaths.
Images reveal that the surface of the Sun is absolutely spotless – stating to us that no major or noticeable thermonuclear reaction is taking place on the Sun. The composite images released by NASA depict a very bizarre and unusual picture of our fiery Sun to us.
Scientists fear for the Sun that it might go into a dormant state so deep, that it might become physically impossible for it to reignite by itself according to thermodynamics. However, many have suggested that it is very less likely to happen because Sun is a behemoth of fuel and it definitely will get back to its fiery potential soon.
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments.