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Sun will flip its magnetic field soon

By Miriam Kramer

Published August 07, 2013
Space.com

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 "external-link.png" — the peak of its solar weather cycle. NASA released a new external-link.png.

 

 

"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 external-link.png 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."



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