Solar Cycles – UPSC Prelims

  • What is Solar Cycle: It is the cycle that the Sun’s magnetic field goes through approximately every 11 years.
  • Solar Minimum: It is the beginning of a solar cycle or when the Sun has the least sunspots.
  • Solar Maximum: It is the middle of the solar cycle or when the Sun has the most sunspots.
  • Why do scientists track solar activity? Scientists track solar activity because it can have effects on Earth. For example, when charged particles from coronal mass ejections(CMEs) reach areas near the Earth, they can trigger intense lightning in the skies referred to as auroras.
  • This can interfere with the power grids which can cause electricity shortages and power outages.
  • How do scientists track solar activity? Scientists track a solar cycle by using sunspots, which are the dark blotches on the Sun that are associated with solar activity.
Additional Facts:
  • Sunspots: It is an area on the Sun that appears dark on the surface and is relatively cooler than the surrounding parts.
  • Significance: These spots some as large as 50,000 km in diameter are the visible markers of the Sun’s magnetic field which forms a blanket that protects the solar system from harmful cosmic radiation.
  • Solar Flares: When a Sunspot reaches up to 50,000 km in diameter it may release a huge amount of energy that can lead to solar flares.
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