The sun's magnetic field is going to flip, causing stormy weather in outer space.
"It looks like we're no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal," solar physicist Todd Hoeksema, director of Stanford's Wilcox Solar Observatory, said. "This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system."
Magnetograms at Wilcox have been monitoring the change in the sun's poles since the 1970s, and have witnessed three of these changes.
"The sun's polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. This is a regular part of the solar cycle," Solar physicist Phil Scherrer, of Stanford University, said.
The sun's magnetic influence (known as the helioshpere ) extends far past Pluto, changes in the heliosphere have the ability to affect the entire solar system.
The sun's "current sheet" is "a sprawling surface jutting outward from the sun's equator where the sun's slowly-rotating magnetic field induces an electrical current." The heliosphere operates based off the current sheet.
When the poles reverse the current sheet gets incredibly wavy. Scherrer compared the phenomenon to the "seams on a baseball."
The Earth moves in and out of the current sheet, and changes in it can cause space storms around the planet.
The polar switch also affects cosmic rays, which can endanger satellites and astronauts. Disturbances in the rays could even affect Earth's climate.
The sheet acts as a "shield" against these rays, and a wavy current sheet can be even more effective.
The poles don't seem to be transitioning at the same time.
"The sun's north pole has already changed sign, while the south pole is racing to catch up," Scherrer, said. "Soon, however, both poles will be reversed, and the second half of Solar Max will be underway."