Related module pages:
A Public Outreach Module:
Solar Wind, Genesis, and the Planets
What is Solar Max and how does it impact the Genesis mission?
Solar Max describes a collection of events, including coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and flares, that occur with some regularity on the sun. These events wax and wane on a roughly eleven-year cycle. Solar Max is an abbreviation for Solar Maximum, the 2-4 year period when these events are at their highest level.
Sun spots occur in all years, but during a Solar Max the number of sun spots per year is higher than at other times. While the sunspots themselves probably produce only minor changes in the energy output of the sun, they seem to be associated with solar flares and geomagnetic disturbances when they occur in large numbers. So the rate of sunspot occurrence is often an indicator of solar activity.
The Genesis spacecraft will be at L1 until 2004, so it is experiencing the effects of this, the 23rd Solar Max since recording of the solar cycles began, several hundred years ago.
For a more technical description, take a Closer Look at
The Structured Sun and Solar Max: At the Core of the Matter.