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The sun has started a new solar cycle, experts say

September 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Every 11 years, the sun completes a solar cycle of calm and stormy activity and begins a new one. The new solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25, officially began in December 2019. The sun's activity has been slowly increasing since then and is expected to peak in July 2025.

(CNN)Every 11 years, the sun completes a solar cycle of calm and stormy activity and begins a new one.

It's important to understand the solar cycle because space weather caused by the sun -- eruptions like solar flares and coronal mass ejection events -- can impact the power grid, satellites, GPS, airlines, rockets and astronauts in space.

The next solar maximum, when the sun is experiencing peak activity, is predicted to occur in July 2025.

Solar Cycle 24 was the fourth smallest cycle on record and the weakest cycle in 100 years, said Lisa Upton, co-chair of Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel and solar physicist at the Space Systems Research Corporation, during a press conference Tuesday.

"Just because it's a below-average solar cycle, doesn't mean there is no risk of extreme space weather," said Doug Biesecker, panel co-chair and solar physicist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, in a statement.

During the peak of solar activity in the last cycle, 120 sunspots were tracked.

Over the course of a solar cycle, the sun will transition from a calm period to one that is very intense and active.

"We hope that an eclipse close to solar maximum will not only show us an awe-inspiring corona, but also some big, interesting sunspots on the face of the Sun to help us learn about living inside the atmosphere of an active star and the space weather it creates," said Valentin Martinez Pillet, director of the National Solar Observatory in Colorado, in a statement.

That includes NOAA's Space Weather Follow-On L-1 observatory, which is expected to launch in 2024 ahead of Solar Cycle 25's predicted peak.

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