The Sun Can Reverse its Magnetic Field fact

Does the Sun Reverse its Magnetic field? Can the Sun’s Magnetic Field “Flip”?

The Sun’s magnetic field “flips” in cycles, with its field regularly weakening and strengthening, and reversing polarity roughly once every eleven years.

The flip disrupts weather and electromagnetic forces both on the sun and on earth. Normally these disruptions are minor, but, if they reach the strength of the 1859 Carrington Event (explained below), they have the potential to be catastrophic.

The Wilcox Solar Observatory in Stanford has tracked the sun’s cycles since 1976.

Below we explain how the sun’s magnetic field flips and other phenomena related to the cyclical patterns of the sun.[1]

To see some spectacular images of the sun “shedding its skin” as its magnetic field reverses, please see Goddard Space Flight Center’s News.[2]

NASA | Alex Young Interview About Our Sun’s Magnetic Flip

What is the Sun’s Magnetic Field Cycle?

The Sun’s equatorial area goes through a period of heavy sunspot activity, which disrupts its electromagnetic field. Next, it is subject to a Coronal Mass Ejection (or CME) which is when almost unimaginable amounts of electrified gas shoot into space from the poles. The gas carries the Sun’s magnetic field with it, which results in the Sun’s north and south magnetic field reversing themselves or flipping.[3]

NASA | Magnificent Eruption in Full HD

What Happens When the Sun’s Magnetic Field Flips?

We tend not to think about light as being electromagnetic radiation, but it is. When a CME occurs, a billion tons of plasma of radiation are carried across our solar system. Solar flairs erupt. Solar winds, or charged particles, travel at speeds of up to a million miles and hour to form a giant swirl of force called a heliosphere.[4]

Sun Magnetic Field Flip Live Shots

How Does the Sun’s Heliosphere Affect me?

Sometimes solar geomagnetic storms hit Earth. A disturbance of the magnetic field can leave Earth and space stations exposed to cosmic radiation and can disrupt power grids.  It also affects weather everywhere on earth. First light ionizes our upper atmosphere and interferes with radio transmissions. The radiation storm follows leaving some spots on and around Earth exposed to radiation. When a CME hits our planet, it can disrupt electromagnetic fields, and compromise sensitive electronics. The most vulnerable section of our technology is probably our satellite communications and GPS technology.[5]

Solar Storm – Full Documentary

What would a Solar Storm as Large as the Carrington Event do to our Advanced Technology?

Most recent storms have been relatively minor but, in 1859, the Carrington Event hit like a major hurricane. It caused telegraph lines to spark and overheat, and that caused fires. If a similar event occurred today, our aging power grid and satellite systems would be at risk. Our world could be changed radically by events taking place in the sun.[6]

1859 Carrington Event – The biggest Solar Storm in history

Article Citations
  1. The Sun’s Magnetic Field is about to flip
  2. Goddard Space Flight Center’s News
  3. The Sun Flips its Poles – ‘Psychedelic’ Time-Lapse Animation
  4. EarthSky
  5. Extreme Solar Storm Could Cause Widespread Disruption on Earth
  6. What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today

The sun’s magnetic field “flips” about once every eleven years. This produces a range of interesting phenomena, most not having any sort of catastrophic effect down on earth.

Author: Linda deSolla Price

Linda deSolla Price is the daughter of Derek de Solla Price, a physicist, historian, and Yale professor who was the first to formally study the History of Science. She holds...

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