According to Karen C. Fox of the Goddard Space Flight Center, the magenta colored lines represent regions where the overall field is negative, while the green lines represent areas that are positive and the gray lines represent areas of local magnetic variation.

“The entire sun’s magnetic polarity, flips approximately every 11 years – though sometimes it takes quite a bit longer – and defines what’s known as the solar cycle,” Fox wrote on Friday. “The visualization shows how in 1997, the sun shows the positive polarity on the top, and the negative polarity on the bottom.”

Over the course of the next 12 years, however, positive and negative lines can be seen moving slowly towards the opposite pole, ultimately culminating in a complete flip of the magnetic poles. During the peak of each magnetic flip, Fox added, the sun experiences periods of increased solar activity, resulting in additional sunspots and events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).