To understand how the Solar Cycle works and to maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights during all parts of the Solar Cycle, our guide below explains everything you need to know to ensure you can make the most of your hunt for the Aurora.
What is The Solar Cycle?
The Solar Cycle is the 11-year cycle in which the solar activity of the Sun falls and rises in intensity. While the Sun appears from a distant 93,000,000 miles as a constant ball of fire, the variation in activity on its surface is measured by the number of Sunspots or regions of reduced surface temperature.
Essentially, the number of Sunspots rises and falls naturally over the course of this 11-year period, with the length of the cycle varying from as little as 8 to as much as 14 years.
Although the length of the cycle can vary in length, since records began in 1755 the sunspot cycle has always followed the same pattern of increasing to “Solar Maximum” (the point at which the number of Sunspots peak) and decreasing to “Solar Minimum” (the point at which the number of Sunspots is at its lowest).
Figure 1. Credit: NASA/SDO
We are blue in the face from telling anybody who will listen that autumn is an excellent time to search for the Aurora Borealis. Scientific research and findings from various esteemed Solar Physicists repeatedly point to increased geomagnetic activity (and hence, Auroral displays) in the weeks around the autumn and spring equinoxes.
The big question therefore, is; has this new aurora hunting season started well?
Here at The Aurora Zone, there is nothing we want more than for our clients to have the best possible chance of witnessing the Northern Lights. One of the ways we try to optimise your chances is by learning all we can about the underlying science which causes Auroral displays (you can find out more about this on our website under ‘The Science of the Northern Lights’).
Our expert Aurora guide and CEO of the new Northern Lights Village in Saariselkä, Markku Inkilä is a self-proclaimed Aurora nut. He lives and breathes the Northern Lights and is rarely happier than when he is capturing them on camera. His photos have been published in the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, and on hundreds of websites around the world.