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The Question

(Submitted December 05, 1996)

Based on media info, I'm trying to find out something about the "new" solar cycle we are going into. What possible affect would result from the flaring that is supposed to take place. I'm wondering about affects and potential MAGNITUDE in areas in Electromagnetism/daily activities, possible biological affects, and elemental. I realize that all of these may not be in your field of expertise, but would welcome any info you could pass on.

The Answer

Your questions are well beyond the HEASARC area of expertise. I tried a bit of WWW surfing and didn't find anything very satisfying, however you should try some as well. The thing to remember is that the solar cycle is about 11 years so there won't be anything happening that hasn't happened before. Predictions of the strength of the maximum haven't been terribly accurate in the past (the last one about 1990 was supposed to be much stronger than it turned out to be). Strong flares will affect some communication systems and the astronauts need to be careful, but for most of us it will be business as usual. Other space-related effects include increased drag on satellites. As Earth receives more energy from the Sun, the atmosphere puffs up increasing the density of the residual atmosphere in the satellite's path. Aurora also become more spectacular.

Steve Snowden
for Imagine the Universe!

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