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Sun’s magnetic field to flip in coming months


Paulina Keber
Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 2:10 PM -

In the coming months, the sun’s magnetic field is set to flip. This may sound apocalyptic (or like the beginning of a sci-fi movie) but it is not. 

In fact, this process happens every eleven years when the sun hits a stage of development known as its solar maximum. Scientists expect this to take place in the next three to four months. This will also mark the end of the 24th observed solar cycle and the beginning of Solar Cycle 25.

You may be wondering how this process works. Essentially, the polar magnetic field of the sun will weaken until it reaches zero, and then strengthens to the opposite polarity. Measurements from Stanford University's Wilcox Solar Observatory show that the sun’s northern pole has already changed signs while the southern hemisphere pole has yet to change. 

The reversal of the sun’s magnetic field is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the entire solar system. It will effect everything within the limits of the heliosphere. As this process takes place, the electrical current created by the magnetic field, called the current sheet, will become wavy. The current sheet also acts as a shield, protecting us from harmful cosmic rays. 

This solar max which we are currently in has also increased the activity of the sun. This activity includes an increase in the number of sunspots, solar flares, and the explosion of solar material. There may also be unexpected space weather as the planets that orbit the sun pass into the densest parts of the current sheet. 

Brighter auroras are the effect that we can expect to see on Earth. Watch the video above to see how magnificent auroras look!

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