The Sun, just like the Earth, has magnetic poles. However, the north pole, which used to be in the northern hemiphsere of the sun, is now pointing south. The reason? Sunspots.
Sunspots—some the size of planets—usually come in pairs, with one having north magnetic polarity, and the twin having south magnetic polarity. Every eleven years these spots go through a cycle of decreasing to a minimum, rising to a maximum, then decreasing again. At the end of that cycle, the polarity of the sunspots flips, so that north is south, and vice-versa. This flip actually affects the entire solar magnetic field, and the global polarity of the Sun reverses along with the polarity of the sunspots. This isn’t done quietly, either—sunspots brew up quite a storm, spewing superhot gasses, and hurling gigantic clouds of electrons, protons, and heavier ions toward Earth at almost the speed of light.
The most recent cycle started four years ago, which means the peak—and the flipping poles—will happen during 2012. Scientists predict that the flip can mean some strange things for us here on earth: GPS services can go haywire as the clumps of ions heading toward us interfere with signals; and because of our atmosphere expanding from the increased solar energy, low-flying satellites can be knocked out of orbit. There is a bit of good news, though: because of the influx of particles streaming into the upper atmosphere, the aurora oval will grow, bringing the Northern Lights as far south as Key West.