SCIENCE -- September 10, 2013 at 6:08 PM ET
The sun's magnetic field is about to flip-flop
Smithsonian Magazine reports that by the time the leaves change color and snow starts falling across the northern U.S., the sun's magnetic field will have done an about-face and emerge 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
"Every 11 years, the strength of this magnetic field gradually decreases to zero, then emerges in the opposite direction, as part of the solar cycle," Smithsonian's Joseph Stromberg wrote. "It's as if, here on Earth, compasses pointed towards the Arctic as "North" for 11 years, then briefly wavered, then pointed towards Antarctica as "North" for the next 11 years."
At the beginning of August, NASA announced the event was likely to happen within four months.
"A reversal of the sun's magnetic field is, literally, a big event. The domain of the sun's magnetic influence (also known as the "heliosphere") extends billions of kilometers beyond Pluto," Dr. Tony Phillips -- the scientist behind spaceweather.com -- wrote in a release.
"Changes to the field's polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space."