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For release: 06-19-03
Photo release #: 03-097

Powerful 'conveyor belts' drive Sun's 11-year cycle, new evidence suggests

Photo description: Sunspots appear as dark spots on the Sun's surfaceLarge 1024 x 1024 (72)
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Sun spots

Appearing as dark spots on the Sun's surface, sunspots are magnetic regions on the Sun with magnetic field strengths thousands of times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field. Monthly sunspot averages show that the number of sunspots visible on the Sun waxes and wanes with an approximate 11-year cycle. (Big bear Solar Observatory/New Jersey Institute of Technology)


Photo description: A cross-sectional view of the Sun's meridional circulationLarge 3200 x 2401 (300)
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A cross-sectional view of the Sun's meridional circulation

The conveyor belt-like circulation extends through the Sun's convection zone — the outermost 30 percent of the solar interior. The flow is toward the poles at the surface and toward the equator at the base of the convection zone. The speed of the flow at the bottom sets the 11-year period of the sunspot cycle as well as the strength of future sunspot cycles. The colors in this image reveal the rotation rate of the different regions, red for rapid rotation with a 25-day period, orange for average rotation with a 27-day period, and blue for slow rotation with a 35-day rotation. (Dibyendu Nandy/Montana State University)

Steve Roy
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