NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
A Forecast of Reduced Solar Activity and Its Implications for NASAThe "Solar Dynamo" method of solar activity forecasting is reviewed. Known generically as a 'precursor" method, insofar as it uses observations which precede solar activity generation, this method now uses the Solar Dynamo Amplitude (SODA) Index to estimate future long-term solar activity. The peak amplitude of the next solar cycle (#24), is estimated at roughly 124 in terms of smoothed F10.7 Radio Flux and 74 in terms of the older, more traditional smoothed international or Zurich Sunspot number (Ri or Rz). These values are significantly smaller than the amplitudes of recent solar cycles. Levels of activity stay large for about four years near the peak in smoothed activity, which is estimated to occur near the 2012 timeflame. Confidence is added to the prediction of low activity by numerous examinations of the Sun s weakened polar field. Direct measurements are obtained by the Mount Wilson Solar Observatory and the Wilcox Solar Observatory. Further support is obtained by examining the Sun s polar faculae (bright features), the shape of coronal soft X-ray "holes," and the shape of the "source surface" - a calculated coronal feature which maps the large scale structure of the Sun s field. These features do not show the characteristics of well-formed polar coronal holes associated with typical solar minima. They show stunted polar field levels, which are thought to result in stunted levels of solar activity during solar cycle #24. The reduced levels of solar activity would have concomitant effects upon the space environment in which satellites orbit. In particular, the largest influences would affect orbit determination of satellites in LEO (Low Earth Orbit), based upon the altered thermospheric and exospheric densities. A decrease in solar activity would result in smaller satellite decay rates, as well as fewer large solar events that can destroy satellite electronic functions. Other effects of reduced solar activity upon the space environment include enhanced galactic cosmic rays and more space debris at low altitudes (from the decay of old satellite parts, etc.). The reasons are well known: namely, solar activity serves to sweep the inner heliosphere of galactic cosmic rays, and lower exospheric densities result in decreased drag on LEO debris, allowing longer lifetimes.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Schatten, Kenneth (AI Solutions, Inc. Lanham, MD, United States)
Franz, Heather (AI Solutions, Inc. Lanham, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Subject Category
Solar Physics
Meeting Information
595 Flight Mechanics Symposium(Greenbelt, MD)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

Available Downloads

NameType 20050244826.pdf STI