Just in time to ring in 2014, the sun has apparently completed flipping its magnetic poles.
Last summer NASA said the sun was in the throes of changing its magnetic orientation, flipping upside-down as it were.
Now the space agency has released a video showing a time-lapse of the recent solar cycle to date, with a color-coded magnetic field appearing to thrash about and then settle into the reverse. There it rests. Solar cycle midpoint achieved.
Now it starts over again, on the downhill of the 22-year solar cycle. Polarity flips roughly every 11 years, NASA tells us, which is what defines the solar cycle. This officially puts us at the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24, reported The Independent. The full 22-year cycle, in which the poles flip back again to their original positions, is depicted below.
“This visualization shows the position of the sun's magnetic fields from January 1997 to December 2013,” NASA said in a statement accompanying the video. “The field lines swarm with activity: The magenta lines show where the sun's overall field is negative and the green lines show where it is positive. Additional gray lines represent areas of local magnetic variation.”
Increased solar activity, known as solar maximum, is what happens at the height of each magnetic flip, NASA said. That is what we have been seeing the past couple of years, though solar maximum has not delivered nearly as much as in past cycles.
To go more in-depth and see what effect this could have on the solar system, watch this interview with a NASA scientist.