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Last Post 3/27/2020 2:45 PM by  Kris Sigsbee
Solar cycle
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Jules Bishop


3/27/2020 12:28 PM
    Does the 11 year solar cycle affect Earth at all? Thanks.
    Tags: solar cycle

    Kris Sigsbee

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/27/2020 2:45 PM
    Hi Jules!

    Yes, the solar cycle affects the Earth in a lot of different ways. When the Sun is more active at the peak of the solar cycle, there are more solar storms like coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar flares that can affect Earth and our magnetosphere. Energetic protons and x-rays from solar flares change the layers of Earth's ionosphere in ways that affect how radio signals propagate. This degrades radio communications and can produce something called a solar radio blackout. Changes in the layers of the ionosphere caused by solar flares and during geomagnetic storms can also affect the accuracy of GPS. At the peak of the solar cycle, satellites in low Earth orbit need to boost their orbits more often because changes in the upper layers of the atmosphere increase the drag on these satellites. CMEs can produce disturbances in Earth's magnetic field called geomagnetic storms. During a geomagnetic storm, lots of plasma waves are generated in Earth's magnetic field, which can accelerate electrons in the Van Allen radiation belts to relativistic energies. We say something is relativistic when it is moving at a significant fraction of the speed of light, because we need Einstein's theory of relativity to properly describe its motion. These high energy relativistic electrons are sometimes called "killer electrons" because they can penetrate communications and other satellites in geosynchronous orbit, resulting in damage to their electronic components. During geomagnetic storms, huge electric currents are also produced in Earth's magnetic field, some of which can reach down to the ground and affect our electrical power systems. A large blackout in 1989 was caused by a big geomagnetic storm. In addition to all of the bad things that happen during geomagnetic storms, there are also some good things. During large storms, the aurora move to lower latitudes so people living throughout the US can see them.

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