ISU Planetarium Free Show on Magnetic Pole Reversal


If you are a fan of astronomy and if you also live in the state of Illinois then you’re in luck. The planetarium within Illinois State University will host a free program. The subject will be the reversal of magnetic poles on Earth.

Carl Wenning retired planetarium director, and physics professor will lead the show. The program will cover the effects of an overdue pole reversal on life and civilization.

What is a magnetic pole reversal?

Otherwise known as a geomagnetic reversal, it involves a shift in a planet’s magnetic field, such as the interchanging of the north and south magnetic poles. Earth has alternated between states of polarity over time.

Polarity reversals are random in nature, with 183 pole reversals over the last 83 million years. The latest reversal took place 780.000 years ago. Taking on the name Brunhes-Matuyama, this reversal happened quite quickly, during the course of one human generation.

The last four magnetic pole reversals usually took place during a much larger time frame. It is being estimated that it took between 2000 and 12.000 years for such a shift to take place.

The effects of magnetic fields

Magnetic fields are thought to originate from the dynamo action generated by a planet’s molten core. The stable period between shifts sees these fields in balance with one another, north and south. But during a reversal, everything gets jumbled together like two bundles of twine.

This chaos that occurs during a shift could surely have devastating effects on the stability of life on the planet as all species are connected to Earth’s magnetism in more ways than one. Even the ability to stand upright with no issue requires a stable connection to the planet’s magnetism.

The creation of smaller magnetic fields during a shift could lead gaps in the protective layer that the planet currently enjoys from a large area. This could lead to radiation trickling through from Earth’s near vicinity.

It is difficult to form a clear conclusion that concerns the effects on a geomagnetic shift. Not all are created equally, and there is a long list of possibilities. An extinction event is possible for some species, even humans. But there is a good chance that this would only severely hinder our species and not wipe it out.


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