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Mon Apr 30, 2012, 10:42 PM

Sun may soon have four poles, say researchers [View all]

Sun may soon have four poles, say researchers
source: Asahi Shimbun

The researchers...found signs of unusual magnetic changes in the sun. Normally, the sun’s magnetic field flips about once every 11 years. In 2001, the sun’s magnetic north pole, which was in the northern hemisphere, flipped to the south.

While scientists had predicted that the next flip would begin from May 2013, the solar observation satellite Hinode found that the north pole of the sun had started flipping about a year earlier than expected. There was no noticeable change in the south pole.

If that trend continues, the north pole could complete its flip in May 2012 but create a four-pole magnetic structure in the sun, with two new poles created in the vicinity of the equator of our closest star.

(more at the link: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201204200075)

Saw this last week, and didn't know if it was legitimate (since it had only been reported on that site)...but it was recently picked up by io9 (which, admittedly, isn't saying much). Still haven't found it anywhere else, but there was this article from a few days back on TPM, that might add some weight to it:

Scientists Stumped By Sun’s Asymmetrically Reversing Magnetic Field
source: TPM

The Sun’s magnetic field is reversing, South becoming North, as it does approximately every 11 years on a cycle, but this time, something even stranger is going on: The North is moving much faster than the South, and space scientists aren’t sure why.

“Right now, there’s an imbalance between the north and the south poles,” Jonathan Cirtain, NASA’s project scientist for a Japanese solar mission called Hinode, in a recent article on NASA’s website. “The north is already in transition, well ahead of the south pole, and we don’t understand why.”

Further, the asymmetrically reversing solar magnetic field could have an effect on Earth, resulting in increased solar flares and the accompanying bursts of radioactive particles called “coronal mass ejections,” or CMEs, that can hit Earth and cause brilliant Northern Lights displays and problematic geomagnetic solar storms, according to NASA scientists.

“This usually leads to a double peak in the sunspot number and CME rate as a function of time,” Nat Gopalswamy, a solar scientist NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in an email to TPM.

(more at the link: http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/04/scientists-stumped-by-suns-asymmetrically-reversing-magnetic-field.php)

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drokhole Apr 2012 OP
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