Sun’s “Great Conveyor Belt” –Does this 40-Year Cycle Control Sunspots?

Great_conveyor_belt-400x400 A NASA solar physicist is studying the Great Conveyor Belt on the Sun, a 40-year-cycle current of hot plasma, which may control the maximums and minimums of sunspots as part of the solar cycle. Physicist David Hathaway (of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama) and Lisa Rightmire (of the University of Memphis, Tennessee) have been studying the Sun with respect to its meridional flow and its sunspot cycles with the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a space probe launched by the American’s NASA and the European’s ESA, or European Space Agency, and have found that a vast flow of fire, the "Great Conveyor Belt," is a gigantic circulating current of hot plasma within the Sun.

They gathered data from SOHO every eight hours between June 2009 and December 2009 and were able to study almost all of the sunspot activities during this time, showing how zones of magnetism on the Great Conveyor Belt flow toward the poles of the Sun. This belt of plasma has been circulating at exceptionally high speeds for the last five years. The two researchers found that as the number of sunspots increases on the Sun, the speed of the Great Conveyor Belt decreases, and vice versa: fewer sunspots and the faster the speed of the Belt.

The team found that the Belt moved to over 47 kilometers per hour in 2008 and 2009, during low sunspot activity times, but decreased in speeds, to about 30 kilometers per hour in 2000 and 2001, during maximums of sunspot activities. The belt has a northern part and a southern part, and each of them seem to take about forty years to complete one circuit.

"I believe this could explain the unusually deep solar minimum we've been experiencing," says Dr. Hathaway. The high speed of the conveyor belt challenges existing models of the solar cycle and it has forced us back to the drawing board for new ideas."

Its the 40-year circuit that scientists think is the controlling mechanism for the approximate 11-year solar cycle—when a lot of sunspots occur (solar maximums) for about half the cycle and when only a few (or no) sunspots occur (solar minimums) for the other half of the cycle.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA and

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