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Earth’s last magnetic pole flip took 22,000 years to complete

21 Aug 2019, 13:00 UTC
Earth’s last magnetic pole flip took 22,000 years to complete Gary A. Glatzmaeir/UCSC

The Earth has a magnetic field, in many ways similar to a bar magnet.

Hopefully you played with a bar magnet in school. You sprinkle iron filings on a piece of paper and put the magnet underneath and the iron shavings rearrange themselves into a lovely set of curves, converging at the magnetic poles and spreading out more halfway between them. The overall shape is like an apple cut in half.

The Earth has a magnetic north pole and a magnetic south pole (not to be confused with the geographic, or rotational, poles) just like that bar magnet — we call this a dipole field. But the mechanism creating the magnetic fields between the two are way different.

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