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The sun has erupted more than two dozen times over the last week, sending radiation and solar material hurtling through space – and scientists say more eruptions may be coming.
This shouldn’t be unusual. After all, we are technically at solar maximum, the peak of the 11-year cycle of the sun’s activity. But this has been a noticeably mellow solar maximum, with the sun staying fairly quiet throughout the summer. So when our life-giving star suddenly let loose with 24 medium strength M-class solar flares and four significantly stronger X-class flares between Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, it felt like a surprise.
October was one of the most active months for the sun this solar maximum, and I expect the sunspot count for the month to be quite high as well, more than we’ve seen in two years. I shall have that update in just a few days.
All of these active sunspots have been in the sun’s southern hemisphere, which indicates that hemisphere is finally gearing up to flip its magnetic field, something the sun’s northern hemisphere did last year. Once that happens the solar maximum will be officially over and we will head for the next solar minimum.