NASA and university astronomers have found evidence the 11-year sunspot cycle is driven in part by a giant conveyor belt-like, circulating current within the Sun.
Sunspots appear as dark spots on the Suns surface. (Big Bear Solar Observatory/New Jersey Institute of Technology)
The astronomers, Dr. David Hathaway, Robert Wilson and Ed Reichmann of NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Dr. Dibyendu Nandy of Montana State University in Bozeman, reported their findings the week of June 16 at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society in Laurel, Md. The results were also published in the May 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
The astronomers made their discovery by reviewing the positions and sizes of all sunspots seen on the Sun since 1874. "The sunspots appear in two bands on either side of the Suns equator," said Hathaway. "Although the individual sunspots come and go from week-to-week, the central positions of the bands in which they appear drift slowly toward the solar equator over the course of each 11-year sunspot cycle."
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