A storm is brewing: Sun’s magnetic field about to flip

sunmagnetThe sun’s magnetic field is expected to flip in the next three to four months and it could lead to changes in our climate, storms and disruption to satellites.

This solar event only happens once every 11 years and signals what physicists call the Solar Maximum – a time when the Sun’s solar activity is at its highest.

During this peak in activity the outbursts of solar energy can increase the amount of cosmic and UV rays coming towards Earth and this can interfere with radio communications, cause solar bursts of light – known as flares – and can affect the planet’s temperature.

The sun’s magnetic field reverses around every 11 years at the peak of each solar cycle.

The last peak, or Solar Maximum, was in 2000 and Nasa initially predicted the next flip would take place between 2011 and 2012.

Physicists also warned at the time that the next Solar Maximum could be the strongest yet.

Scientists at Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory have been studying the sun’s magnetic field since 1976, during which time they have witnessed three reversals.

In 1859 a solar storm known as the 1859 Solar Superstorm, or Carrington Event after Richard C Carrington who recorded the event, saw numerous solar flares appear all over Earth.

It was so strong that the Northern Lights – a natural light display that appears predominantly in that Arctic and Antarctic regions and is caused by the collision of energetic charged particles in the magnetosphere and solar wind – were said to be have been visible as far south as Rome.