The Sun Has Just Flipped Out or Over!

nasaThis video is really cool and reinforces how complex and grand the universe is.  And we are but a mere speck in that grandness.  The video is a time lapsed picture of the sun’s polarity from January 1997 to December 2013.   The sun has literally flipped over.   Anthony Watts has more on this phenomena over at Watts Up.  The National Geographic ran a story in August here about what this means.  Here is an excerpt.

A reversal of the sun’s magnetic field will have consequences throughout the solar system since the domain of the sun’s magnetic influence—called the heliosphere—extends far beyond Pluto. Changes to the field’s polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, which are racing toward interstellar space.  Playing a central role in solar field reversals is the “current sheet,” a sprawling surface that juts out of the sun’s equator where the sun’s slowly rotating magnetic field induces an electric current.  The current itself is small—only one ten-billionth of an amp per square meter—but there’s a lot of it, and the entire heliosphere is organized around it. During field reversals, the current sheet becomes very wavy. Scherrer likens the undulations to the seams on a baseball.  As the Earth orbits the sun, our planet dips in and out of the wavy current sheet, and the transitions can stir up stormy space weather around us. The geometry of the current sheet can also affect Earth’s exposure to cosmic rays, which are high-energy particles accelerated to the speed of light by supernova explosions and other violent events in the galaxy.  Cosmic rays pose a threat to astronauts and space probes, and some researchers say they might also affect the cloudiness and climate of Earth.

(Note that the green lines (positive magnetic fields) start at the top in 1997 but by 2013 are on the bottom.)