Sun's Magnetic Field Flip Won't Doom Ear

August 26 [Mon], 2013, 15:21
We have nothing to fear from the big change that is about to occur on the sun, researchers stress.

The sun's magnetic field is set toin the next few months. But the shift won't spark an increase in powerful solar storms or other events that could have a damaging effect on Earth and its inhabitants, researchers say.

"The world will not end tomorrow," Phil Scherrer, a solar physicist at Stanford University, told []

This polarity flip is perfectly normal solar behavior, occurring every 11 years at the peak of our star's activity cycle. But the field reversal doesn't drive the increase inand eruptions of superheated plasma, called coronal mass ejections, that is observed around solar max.

"It's more of an indicator than a causation kind of thing," said solar physicist Todd Hoeksema, director of Stanford's Wilcox Observatory.

From a human perspective, the effects of the field shift will likely be slight and primarily beneficial. For example, the polarity reversal will cause the "current sheet" an enormous surface extending out from the solar equator on which the sun's rotating magnetic field has induced an electric current to become much wavier.

This crinkled current sheet will provide a better barrier against , high-energy particles that are accelerated to nearly the speed of light by faraway star explosions. Galactic cosmic rays can damage spacecraft and hurt orbiting astronauts, who don't enjoy the protection of Earth's thick atmosphere.