Posted: Friday, September 6th, 2013
In a matter of months, the sun’s magnetic field will completely invert itself, an event that will create ripple effects throughout the entire solar system. Don’t freak out! Solar magnetic field reversals are relatively common occurrences in our cosmic neighborhood (they happen once about every 11 years or so).
Our planet’s polar regions change, too—they just do it very slowly. Then again, the earth isn’t a humongous churning ball of burning gas that’s constantly rearranging its matter, so count on your compasses continuing to point north until scientists say otherwise. Right now, however, our sun’s north pole has already switched its sign, and the south pole is racing to catch up.
Because the orientation of the sun’s magnetic field is constantly in flux, it induces a small electrical current in all matter in the solar system (that’s right—all matter in the solar system, including stuff beyond Pluto!). The inverse is also true—the flow of electricity induces its own magnetic field, giving objects with an electrical current the ability to attract and repel other magnets. See this for yourself by checking out this great science fair project where kids build their own working electric motors.
To further honor this relatively obscure (but pretty darn cool!) cosmic event, check out these sun-related science fair projects that will have kids doing everything from testing the optimal angle for solar cells to learning how to cook hot dogs with parabolic mirrors.