"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
Sun will flip its magnetic field soon
The sun is gearing up for a major solar flip, NASA says. In an event that occurs once every 11 years, the magnetic field of the sun will change its polarity in a matter of months, according new observations by NASA-supported observatories.
The flipping of the sun’s magnetic field marks the peak of the star’s 11-year solar cycle and the halfway point in the sun’s “solar maximum” — the peak of its solar weather cycle.
"It looks like we’re no more than three to four months away from a complete field reversal," Todd Hoeksema, the director of Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, said in a statement. "This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system."
As the field shifts, the “current sheet” — a surface that radiates billions of kilometers outward from the sun’s equator — becomes very wavy, NASA officials said. Earth orbits the sun, dipping in and out of the waves of the current sheet. The transition from a wave to a dip can create stormy space weather around Earth, NASA officials said.
"The sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity," Stanford solar physicist Phil Scherrer said in a statement. "This is a regular part of the solar cycle."
Image credit: NASA