The Sun’s magnetic poles are gradually disappearing, but there’s no need for alarm

The Sun’s magnetic poles are gradually disappearing, but there’s no need for alarm: this is part of the usual 11-year activity cycle of our main star. Over the past few years, solar activity—measured by the number of sunspots on the sun’s surface—has been increasing, along with solar eruptions such as electromagnetic radiation flares and plasma ejections. Solar storms have brought about stunning auroras and occasional radio interruptions.

On March 12, 2016, an image of the Sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory depicted a schematic of the sun’s magnetic field lines, during a time when solar activity was diminishing.

For Earthlings, these solar activities are not so apparent: they are also eroding the remarkable magnetic field of the Sun, leaving the poles of our main star almost devoid of charge. Scientists say that over time, a reversal will occur in the magnetic field, which will then gradually strengthen as solar activity diminishes. Solar scientist Lisa Upton at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado said, “Now, it appears that the sun’s two polar magnetic fields are syncing up. They have already nearly reached zero, so they are becoming very, very weak, but we haven’t quite reached the reversal point yet.”

The polar reversal will mark the midpoint of a process that began around December 2019, when the sun was at its quietest, with hardly a sunspot in sight. At this time, the star’s magnetic field aligns into a relatively orderly dipole, with one pole carrying a positive charge and the other a negative charge.

However, unlike the Earth’s magnetic field or the field of a bar magnet, the sun’s magnetism is patchy and highly unstable, even during the dipole phase. Todd Hoeksema, a solar scientist at Stanford University, said, “It’s not a uniform positive magnetic field. It’s comprised of many small magnetic flux areas, most of which are one polarity rather than the other, and this is a dynamic change.”