This year is a solar minimum. What does that mean? Can we see the Northern Lights during a year of solar minimum, such as 2020?
Scientists have been monitoring our Sun’s activity since hundreds of years and have observed that it varies periodically. More exactly, the number of the visible sunspots on our star’s surface, increases then decreases periodically, during a period of 11 years. When this number is on the low side – that’s a solar minimum, and we are currently there in 2020. The next solar maximum is expected towards 2025-2026.
Sunspots are associated to high solar activity (solar flares, coronal mass ejections) – which is necessary for Auroras to form here on Earth. But solar activity can also be due to other phenomena, such as coronal holes, which can occur even at solar minimums, and do not depend on the number of sunspots!
So, to answer the last question is the introductory paragraph – “yes”, the Aurora can be seen during years of solar minimums, too! And very well even, as coronal holes can lead to powerful geomagnetic storms!
In addition, places located on the Kp=0 Auroral Oval, such as Vadsø, need a considerably little activity in order to display beautiful Auroras. So, here in our region, the Northern Lights are seen in amazing displays, even in solar minimum years.