Sun’s magnetic field ‘to flip’

KD Suarez
The sun's magnetic field is set to reverse in the coming months; Big effect on solar system, little effect on Earth, scientists say

MANILA, Philippines – The Sun’s magnetic field is set to reverse in the next few months, scientists said.

This event occurs when the sun’s inner magnetic reorganizes: the polar magnetic fields weaken to zero, then reappear but now with opposite polarities.

“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal… This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system,” solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory said.

It happens at the peak of a solar cycle, and the change usually happens every 11 years or so, scientists said. The current reversal, NASA said, will mark the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24.

“This is a regular part of the solar cycle,” said Stanford scientist Phil Scherrer.

There will be big effects on the heliosphere, the area where the sun’s magnetic influence can be felt, the scientists said.

File photo by NASA/European Space Agency

“Changes to the field’s polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space,” NASA said.

Scientists said the current sheet – a surface which spreads out from the sun’s equator where a very small electrical current induced by the sun’s magnetic field can be detected – will become “wavy,” which could help deflect high-energy cosmic rays from outside the solar system.

The flip could also have some effect on Earth. Because of the lower cosmic ray intensity, there might be fewer lightning strikes and less intense storms, Hoeksema told, but the link to weather, he said, is “pretty much a speculative endeavor at this point.”

The Wilcox observatory is already seeing signs of the start of the reversal, with the star’s north pole already starting to change its polarity.

“The south pole is racing to catch up… Soon, however, both poles will be reversed, and the second half of Solar Max will be underway,” Scherrer said. –

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