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Monday, November 18, 2013

Sun is getting ready to flip upside down

Sun is getting ready to flip upside down

by Saravanan Jawahar

Washington, Nov 18: The Sun is getting ready to "flip upside down" within weeks as its magnetic field reverses polarity in an event that will send ripple effects throughout the solar system.

The phenomenon of sun switching its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south happens once every 11 years. It could cause intergalactic weather changes such as geomagnetic storms, which can interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts. The effects could even reach billions of kilometers beyond the orbit of Pluto.

In spite of its outwardly composed appearance, the plasma found inside the Sun and responsible for the star's magnetic field, is continually churning. It reorganizes itself every 11 years, through an internal mechanism about which little is understood, in the process of inverting the magnetic polarity of the star.

An important part of this mechanism is thought to be a difference in the rates at which material flows from the equator to the poles and back on the Sun's surface, as well as the fact that the Sun rotates faster at its poles than at the equator.

During this period, the sunspot activity on the Sun increases. There are also more violent expulsions of charged particles from its surface as coronal mass ejections and solar flares. These bursts can interrelate with the magnetic field of the Earth, stimulating a surge in the occurrence of auroras, also known as Northern Lights.

Astrophysicists say larger flares can disturb the ionosphere and disrupt radio communication, damage electronics on board satellites, cause hazards to airlines flights in polar routes, and even electrical blackouts in regions near the Earth's magnetic poles.

Solar scientists at Stanford University's Wilcox Solar Observatory are making sure to watch magnetic field of the sun closely, observing and assessing it every day, just as has been done since 1975. This daily observation will allow scientists to be able to see the magnetic reversal when it actually occurs on the sun's surface. This upcoming change in the sun's poles will be the fourth that the laboratory has been able to view.



GS Virdi

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