The solar maximum could hit us harder and sooner than we thought. How dangerous will the sun’s chaotic peak be?

The sun is quickly approaching a major peak in solar activity. Experts warn it could potentially begin by the end of 2023, years before initial predictions suggested.

This image shows how the sun’s appearance changes between solar maximum (on the left) and solar minimum (on the right).

This period of increased activity, known as solar maximum, is also a potentially perilous time for Earth, which gets bombarded by solar storms that can disrupt communications, damage power infrastructure, harm some living creatures (including astronauts) and send satellites plummeting toward the planet.

As a result, the sun’s magnetic field gradually weakens, and solar activity begins to ramp up: Plasma rises from the star’s surface and forms massive magnetized horseshoes, known as coronal loops, that pepper the sun’s lower atmosphere.

But the terminator at the start of Solar Cycle 25, which occurred on Dec. 13, 2021, was earlier than expected, which the researchers took as a sign that the solar maximum would be stronger than the previous one.

Since the 2021 Terminator, solar activity has been ramping up faster than expected.

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