Tags: Magnetic | Field | Sun | Polarity

Magnetic Field of Sun to Flip

Tuesday, 06 Aug 2013 11:03 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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The magnetic field of the sun is due to change its polarity before the end of 2013, reports space.com.

According to NASA-backed observatories, the event, which happens once every 11 years, will occur sometime in the next three to four months.

The sun’s magnetic field flips at the apex of its 11-year solar cycle, which is also the midpoint in the sun's “solar maximum,” the peak of its solar weather cycle, according to the website.

“It looks like we're no more than three to four months away from a complete field reversal,” said Todd Hoeksema, director of Stanford University's Wilcox Solar Observatory.

“This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system,” he told the website.

NASA officials explained that during the shifting of the magnetic field, a surface radiating billions of kilometers out from the sun’s equator, known as the “current sheet,” becomes very wavy.

The Earth dips in and out of the waves of the current sheet as it orbits the sun and the transition from a wave to a dip can create stormy space weather around our planet, NASA officials told the website.

“The sun's polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity,” said Stanford solar physicist Phil Scherrer.

This is a regular part of the solar cycle.”

Unstable weather may be the downside of the polarity shift, but it provides a benefit as well.

It also furnishes extra shielding from dangerous cosmic rays, high-energy particles that are accelerated by events like supernova explosions and travel through the universe at nearly the speed of light, reports Space.com.

These rays can cause harm to satellites and astronauts in space, and the current sheet offers a better level of protection for the Earth from these particles.

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