The surface of the sun is polarized by turbulent movements of gravity, plasma and magnetic fields, very similar to the weather on Earth and its behavior may appear unexpected with patterns that can be found when looking closely, and the first pattern observed on the surface of the sun, in sunspots, and some astronomers have observed The ancients have sunspots, but they have been regularly studied since the seventeenth century.
According to the Russian site “rt”, when astronomers counted the number of visible spots every year, they found that the sun goes through active years and quiet years, and there is an 11-year cycle of high and low number of sunspots, as well as other cycles, such as the Gleisberg cycle that continues from 80 to 90 years old.
These patterns are similar to hurricane seasons in the American Midwest, or El Nino / La Nina cycles in the Pacific Ocean, and these large patterns have a regularity that makes it easy to predict, but while predicting sunspot cycles is relatively easy, predicting the emergence of an individual sunspot not like that.
One of the challenges with predicting sunspots is that we cannot place the sensors directly on the surface of the sun, and it is difficult to measure the magnetic fields that create sunspots.
But astronomers learned that the sun can be studied using sound waves, and this technology began to allow them to predict individual sunspots, and one of the projects that studies the sun in this way is the Global Oscillation Network (GONG) group, consisting of six solar telescopes that measure the movement of the sun’s surface over an orbit. The time is seven days a week.
The vibrations of the surface of the sun are caused by the movement of sound waves through the interior of the sun. The study of the sun in this way is known as “helioscience”.
While mainly used to study the interior of the sun, sound waves are also affected by surface features such as sunspots, and the GONG team recently used this feature to predict one of them.
A week ago, the GONG team noticed that the solar acoustic vibrations appeared to be disrupted by a feature on the far side of the sun, and they couldn’t see the feature, but it was compatible with those in sunspots.
So the team expected that the sunspot cluster could be seen from Earth on the famous Thanksgiving Day in the United States. And it turns out they were right, and this kind of prediction is very useful, because large sunspots are often accompanied by other activities such as solar flares.
And intense solar explosions can disrupt modern satellites such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), and in the most extreme cases could threaten the collapse of our electrical grid, so anticipating these events several days in advance gives time to mitigate their effects.
With more research, the GONG team and others may be able to predict the appearance of sunspots before they form. That should give us more than a week to prepare for any threat from solar flares.