"Researchers from the University of Colorado believe the next solar cycle (Solar Cycle 24) will be the most intense in 50 years."
- NASA, August 15, 2006
August 23, 2006 Huntsville, Alabama - As long as humans have been studying our sun, observers have noticed that the sun goes through reoccurring cycles that last about eleven years. For instance, most recently the year 2000 was a solar maximum of sunspots. After that, sunspots were supposed to decline in size and number to a solar minimum in 2005 before starting over again with an upswing in sunspot activity to another solar maximum in 2010 to 2012. During solar maximums, there can be powerful flares, or coronal mass ejections, that propel intense solar radiation at a million mph through the solar system. The power of a solar flare is the energy equivalent of a million megatons of TNT, or ten million Hiroshima bombs. During the most recent solar minimum, there were a number of unexpected huge sunspots that unleashed gigantic X class flares when the sun was supposed to be quiet. X class flares are the strongest category. That unusually intense activity during a solar minimum left many people wondering if the next solar cycle, the 24th, will be especially strong?
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