The word’s “the sun,” and “flipped,” aren’t ones that you’d think would commonly appear alongside one another, since the former is the largest body of mass within light years of us and the latter is a relatively flippant term used more for describing various boards people ride on, rather than celestial bodies. However that’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in and it isn’t even one we need to panic over, as it was more than expected.
As part of its most recent solar cycle, number 24, the Sun has reversed its magnetic field, marking the halfway point in the 22 year process. To show what it looked like, NASA released the following visualisation:[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4UtVo7-yJA’]
“The visualization shows how in 1997, the sun shows the positive polarity on the top, and the negative polarity on the bottom,” reads the video’s description. “Over the next 12 years, each set of lines is seen to creep toward the opposite pole eventually showing a complete flip. By the end of the movie, each set of lines are working their way back to show a positive polarity on the top to complete the full 22 year magnetic solar cycle.”
While NASA was more than prepared for the flip, the organisation’s Dr. Tony Phillips did warn The Independent that the event is far reaching, with the magnetic field from the Sun stretching out beyond Pluto and Voyager 1. He also highlighted how all flips are accompanied by increased solar activity.
KitGuru Says: If you ever get the feeling that you aren’t scared enough of the Sun’s sheer enormity (and the fact that in relation to space, it’s tiny), check out the Oculus Rift demo Titan’s of Space if you ever get a hold of a headset. It’s awe inspiring.