The sun’s magnetic field will reverse polarity at some point in the coming weeks. The phenomenon that happens once every 11 years will send “ripple effects” to the edge of interstellar space and throughout the solar system.
Although it may sound like a catastrophic occurrence, there’s however no need to panic and run for cover. It will hardly have any effect on our planet.
The swap could cause intergalactic weather events such as geomagnetic storms, which can cause radio blackouts and can even interfere with satellites. This switchover effect will be observed throughout the heliosphere – the vast region of space affected by the Sun’s magnetic field, which extends billions of miles beyond Pluto
Researchers at Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory have already observed three such swap of the sun’s magnetic field.
Though the exact internal mechanism that drives the magnetic shift is not yet entirely understood by researchers, but Todd Hoeksema, director of the Observatory, said the polarity change is built up throughout the eleven year cycle through areas of intense magnetic activity known as sunspots which gradually move towards the poles, eroding the existing opposite polarity. Eventually, the magnetic field reduces to zero, before rebounding with the opposite polarity.
One of the most noticeable effects on Earth will be a boost in the occurrence, range and visibility of auroras – the Northern Lights. It could also have an effect on power distribution grids and GPS satellites.
In August this year, Nasa predicted that the polarity swap would happen in three to four months of time, but it is impossible to give a more specific date.
In comparison the last time the Earth’s magnetic field flipped was almost 800,000 years ago.