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Seasons Change, So Do the Sun’s Phases

Many images come to mind when we think about Space Weather, but did you know that the connection between the Earth and the Sun is not as far out as you might think!  Just like we change seasons here on Earth, in space the Sun also goes through it’s own phases.

“It’s a really complicated system that’s got this really complicated magnetic field,” explained Dan Seaton, senior scientist for solar physics in NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.  “The sun’s outer atmosphere is about a million degrees. And this drives this really complicated and intense activity that unfolds over a cycle of 11 years.

Courtesy: NASA

After taking a “nap” for a few years, the largest object in our solar system is about to get active again by 2025.  It’s Space Weather event scientists need to closely monitor for impacts on technological systems.

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“There’s danger to communications on Earth that can be disrupted,” Seaton said.  “GPS could be a little less reliable during a Space Weather event, and power grids are actually vulnerable to power surges that could cause blackouts.  But we watch the Sun 24 hours a day.”

Seaton and many other scientists spend countless hours keeping track of this yellow dwarf star’s activity with the same satellites that we use to watch our weather!

“Any little change in activity, any little uptick in the activity, an outburst like a solar flare which is sort of a huge explosion that happens at the surface of the sun, we watch at the Space Weather Prediction Center,”  Seaton said.  “NOAA can issue watches and warnings and alerts just like the weather service does to help people be prepared for space weather events.”

Largest Solar Flare Since 2017 Spotted on the Sun, Courtesy: NASA

These forecasts are not only important on this planet but for our astonauts exploring other parts of the galaxy.

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“If you’re an astronaut out there in deep space, you are much more vulnerable to the effects from an outburst from the sun, and you need to have really good reliable information in case you need to take shelter from a big energetic solar flare,” Seaton said.

Want to learn more about the Sun and it’s cycles? Check out this in depth breakdown by scientists at NASA!

About the author
Meredith is a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist as designated by the American Meteorological Society.  She was born and raised in Cleveland but has worked from coast to coast covering almost every type of weather.  She's been live out in the field during destructive tropical storms on the Gulf Coast of Florida, raging wildfires in Southern California, and covered the wreckage from tornadoes in t... Load Morehe Great Plains. In 2009, she reported on the damaging hail storm during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and in 2017, the historic California winter storms that produced record rain totals and devastating flash flooding.  Prior to joining WeatherNation, Meredith worked at KEYT/KKFX in Santa Barbara, CA, KOTA-TV in Rapid City, SD, WWSB-TV in Sarasota, FL, and began her career as an intern at WGN-TV in Chicago.  She was Santa Barbara's "Favorite Weathercaster of the Year" in 2016 and the Community Partner of the Year in 2017 for her volunteer work with Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties and awarded with the 2018 Valparaiso University Alumni Association First Decade Achievement Award. Meredith co-chairs the American Meteorological Society Station Scientist Committee, which focuses on raising greater awareness & outreach when it comes to science education for viewers.  She's also an accomplished reporter, producing weather and science stories including rocket launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the new GOES-16 satellite and it's impacts on weather forecasting.  Meredith's also worked on features that took her paragliding along the coast, white water rafting in Northern California, learning to surf in the Pacific Ocean, and how to be an aerial photographer while flying a single engine plane!

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