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Sun's Magnetic Field About to Flip

Measurements by NASA-supported observatories reveal the Sun's magnetic field will flip soon causing ripple effects throughout the solar system.

The Sun's magnetic field reverses polarity approximately every 11 years. What does that mean though?

"The sun's polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. This is a regular part of the solar cycle," solar physicist Phil Scherrer explained.

In a post on the NASA website, Dr. Tony Phillips wrote the reversal will mark the midway point of Solar Cycle 24 - half of the "solar max" will be behind us with half yet to come.

As the field shifts, stormy space weather can result but we have nothing to fear according to Space.com. The polarity reversal will cause the "current sheet" -- which extends out from the solar equator -- to become wavier.

"This crinkled current sheet will provide a better barrier against galactic cosmic rays, high-energy particles that are accelerated to nearly the speed of light by faraway star explosions," Space.com senior writer Mike Wall explained. "Galactic cosmic rays can damage spacecraft and hurt orbiting astronauts, who don't enjoy the protection of Earth's thick atmosphere."

Read more on NASA.gov.



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