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The sun is awakening with ‘solar storms’ that could affect Earth

The Washington Post - After a lengthy slumber, the sun is waking up, crackling with activity and hurling blistering pulses of energy into space. Solar physicists are expecting an uptick in stormy “space weather,” with implications that affect us here on Earth.

As soon as Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that a solar outburst could generate northern lights or aurora as far south as Oregon to Pennsylvania.

This flare-up coincides with the onset of “Solar Cycle 25,” an 11-year window within which storminess on the surface of the sun peaks and “solar storms” become routine.

The sun is nearly 93 million miles away, but disturbances on its surface can have serious effects far and wide across the solar system. Solar scientists and forecasters of space weather track “sunspots,” or cool, discolored regions that make appearances on the solar disk and throb with magnetic energy. The number of sunspots present at any given time fluctuates over the course of 11 years, each span representing one cycle.

The high-energy particles spewed out of sunspots can cause high-frequency radio blackouts and interrupt communications on Earth, while magnetic energy from solar flares, or sneeze-like eruptions from sunspots, can bring about occasionally epic displays of the northern lights.

Twice in the past 10 days, impressive solar flares have heralded the building Solar Cycle 25, a stark contrast from earlier this year, when a “solar minimum” between cycles meant that 200....READ MORE

The Washington Post is an American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C. It is the most-widely circulated newspaper within the Washington metropolitan area, and has a large national audience. Daily broadsheet editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.



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