The sun’s magnetic field flips every 11 years, and it’s about to do it again. As reported on it last flipped on February 15, 2001, as the previous solar max reached its height. The complete field reversal is 3 to 4 months away. The shift will mark the midpoint of Solar Max 24, which has been one of the quietest on record. However, quiet solar maximums tend to produce fewer but more intense solar storms, as happened a few weeks ago when a huge coronal mass ejection was sent into space. It was the equivalent of the 1859 Carrington Event, and would have destroyed power grids, electronics and satellites around the world had it struck Earth.

During field reversals, the sun’s magnetic atmosphere becomes uneven, and as Earth orbits in and out of it, space weather around the planet can become stormy, but there is no evidence that extreme storms would occur at such a time.

When our planet is outside of the sun’s protective atmosphere, cosmic ray bombardment also increases. Researchers believe that this might affect Earth’s climate, causing more cloudiness and violent weather. An increase in cosmic rays can also affect astronauts, and the International Space Station has a ‘safe area’ where astronauts can shelter if the radiation around the station becomes too high.

To learn more about the sun and just how urgent it is for us to protect our power grids against its emissions, read Whitley Strieber’s ebook Solar Flares. Available for all ereaders at $3.79.

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