As you may know, our Sun follows a relatively predictable 11-year cycle of solar activity. During the solar minimum, there’s very little activity, and only a handful of sunspots. During the solar maximum, there can be frequent and powerful coronal mass ejections and X-ray flares.
According to NOAA’s Space Environment Center and other solar experts, the next cycle should get rolling in March 2008. This is actually a surprise. Experts originally expected the cycle to begin last fall, but for some reason it was delayed. And the question is, what does the delay of its beginning mean? The experts are actually evenly split; some think it’ll be stronger, and others think it’ll be weaker than normal. The only way to know is to wait and see. If the cycle follows the predictions, it’ll peak sometime between October 2011 and August 2012, with approximately 150 sunspots.
Solar weather forecasting is just as hard as weather forecasting here on Earth. Scientists models and simulations have gotten much better over the last cycle, and they’ll use this cycle to finetune their predictions even better.
Original Source: NOAA News Release