Sunspot (seen left) are, in the most basic terms, spots on the surface of the sun that are cooler than the rest of the surface. Of course “cooler” is relative since we’re still talking about anything from 3,000 to 4,000 degrees celsius, which is more than enough to pop your corn. In 2008 and 2009, the Sun experienced a record low for solar activity and sunspots all but disappeared. During that time the Earth’s upper atmosphere collapsed and the sun’s magnetic field weakened to the point where cosmic rays were allowed to penetrate the Solar System in record numbers.
So what the hell happened?!
Plasma currents deep inside the sun interfered with the formation of sunspots and prolonged solar minimum. Our conclusions are based on a new computer model of the sunís interior.
In the late 1990s, the “Great Conveyor Belt” (the Sun’s version of ocean currents – JW) increased in speed, dragging sunspot corpses into the inner dynamo, but were rushed through the belt entirely too quickly to be fully “recharged.” This stunted sunspot creation, so when the Conveyor Belt slowed down there was little to create new sunspots. According to Petrus Martens of Montana State University’s Department of Science, it set the stage “for the deepest solar minimum in a century.”
So, why does this matter? Well, NASA’s model could be used, theoretically, to predict future “weather” on our Sun. Hopefully this technology can be perfected so that NASA could then predict the next solar minimum instead of taking three years figuring out why the last one happened.