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The Sun is About to Turn Upside Down (Sort Of)

November 13, 2013

Science & Space

Big changes are about to occur on the Sun. Anything that happens on the Sun is big of course—especially to the pipsqueak planets that orbit it and, at least in the case of Earth, depend on it for life. But this time the changes are big even by solar standards: The Sun’s magnetic field is about to flip upside down, its opposing magnetic poles switching places—north to south, top to bottom. It’s as though you took a bar magnet and rotated it 180°, except it’s the magnetism that rotates, not the magnet—and the magnet in this case is a million miles (1.6 million km) across, has a surface temperature of about 11,000°F (6,000°F) and weighs about 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons, give or take. So definitely big.

It’s hard to say exactly when the reversal will happen, but it’s been slowly unfolding since the summer. Scientists won’t know for certain if the flip is…

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