The Sun’s magnetic poles will flip in 2024, so what does this mean for Earth?

The Sun’s magnetic poles will flip in 2024, so what does this mean for Earth?

The Sun’s magnetic poles are about to flip, which could cause northern lights at lower latitudes, more intense solar storms and a potential danger to astronauts and satellite communications. However, experts expect there to be no overt cause for concern.

Many stars and planets, including the Earth and the Sun, have magnetic fields. However, these magnetic fields are not stable, and change periodically during the peak of solar cycles, according to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Paul Charbonneau, a solar physicist at the University of Montreal, commented on the Sun’s magnetic cycles, saying: “We are already seeing the Sun more active than it has been for probably 20 years.”“,” Per Fox.

While Earth’s magnetic north pole irregularly shifts south and back (ranging from once every 10,000 years to once every 50 million years), the Sun’s magnetic poles shift constantly every 11 years, according to the US Geological Survey.

So, while Earth’s last reversal occurred about 780,000 years ago, the Sun’s reversal occurred in 2013. Scientists predict that the next reversal will occur sometime in 2024.

Why do the sun’s poles flip?

Electric currents in the Sun are generated “by the flow of hot, ionized gases,” and magnetic fields are the byproduct, according to NASA. Scientists refer to this process as “dynamo.”

NASA explained that the dynamo “reorganizes itself” at the peak of each solar cycle lasting approximately a decade.

Stanford University solar physicist Phil Scherer described the process to NASA: “The sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, reach zero and then reappear with the opposite polarity. This is a regular part of the solar cycle.

Can a magnetic pole reversal cause damage?

A reversal of the Sun’s magnetic pole typically triggers more intense solar storms, which can disrupt satellites, communications and GPS in space and disable parts of the electrical grid, according to Earth Sky.

NASA physicists James Green and Scott Bordsen published an article on a famous example of intense solar storms in the journal Advances in Space Research. They described the “great geomagnetic storm” of the summer of 1859 as “the most famous space weather event of the last two hundred years.” It is commonly referred to as the “Carrington Event”.

The northern lights typically fall between 60° and 75° latitude. However, that summer, intense auroras were recorded below 50 degrees, and scientists link their intensity to the Sun’s production of more solar storms.

Researchers described these aurora borealis through eyewitness accounts as “blood or deep crimson red” and were so bright that “you could read a newspaper through them.”

Another account published in the Rocky Mountain News came from campers in the Colorado Rockies who woke up to a crepuscular light that was so bright, “Some insisted it was daytime and began making breakfast.”

Further west in San Francisco, the San Francisco Herald published a similar account: “The whole sky seemed to ripple like a field of grain in the high wind; The Gulf waters reflected the brilliant colors of Aurora.

Not only did the magnetic pole reversal result in brighter (and more southern) northern lights, it also “wrought havoc” on telegraph wires, as South Africa’s national space agency described it.

Specifically, Progress in Space Research wrote: “A significant portion of the world’s 200,000 km of telegraph lines were adversely affected,” becoming temporarily unusable and having a “real economic impact.”

What changes will the polar reversal in 2024 bring?

While the Earth’s magnetic field deflects solar storms, University of Colorado Boulder aerospace engineering professor Delores Kneipp explained how solar weather can impact life as it did during the Carrington event.

Severe solar storms “can open up Earth’s magnetic field and let in more energy and mass, and when that happens, we tend to see all kinds of effects,” she told Vox.

Likewise, astrophysicist José Dias de Nascimento told the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University: “Changes during the magnetic cycle have effects throughout the solar system and other planetary systems thanks to the effect of space weather.”

In cases like 1859, solar storms can “cut out electrical power on Earth” and be “very dangerous to satellites and astronauts,” the Smithsonian reported.

However, the National Solar Observatory reports that there is no need to panic, and that the Sun’s constant polar fluctuations are evidence that our star is working as scientists expected.

Mike Murray, program director at the Delta College Planetarium, predicted that this year’s pole reversal, which will likely occur between April and August, should be “no cause for concern.”

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