Huffpost UK Tech

Sun's Magnetic Field To Flip And Reverse Polarity

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The Sun's entire magnetic field is on the verge of flipping over.

Scientists are convinced the source of all life on Earth will shortly reverse polarity, an event that will be felt throughout the entire solar system.

Should you panic? Well... no. This is part of a regular occurrence, happening over a few months every 11 years or so. And so far it hasn't resulted in a catastrophic collapse of solar gravity, or anything exciting like that which we just made up.

the sun

The sun, as if you didn't know

The exact mechanism that drives the shift is not totally understood, but researchers at Stanford's Wilcox Solar Observatory have monitored the phenomenon since 1975.

During an 11-year cycle sunspots appear near the star's equator.

These gradually disintegrate indicating the magnetic field is migrating from the equator to one of the sun's poles. As the surviving polarity moves toward the pole, it erodes the existing, opposite polarity.

Todd Hoeksema, a solar physicist at Stanford since 1978, said: "It's kind of like a tide coming in or going out.

"Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal."

A positive effect that we may be able to see from Earth is an increase in auroras or Northern Lights. Less welcome could be disruption to satellites and electronic systems if the flip gives off particularly powerful solar flare.

Hoeksema added: "We also see the effects of this on other planets. Jupiter has storms, Saturn has auroras, and this is all driven by activity of the sun.

"What happens in the next cycle will be interesting," Hoeksema said. "Technologically, it's something we need to pay more attention to as time goes on."

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