Three MSU Students were the first to discover the reason for the absence of sunspots between 2008 and 2010. They published their article in March 3rds 'Nature' magazine.

The three members of the MSU team of scientists are Dibyendu Nandi, Andres Munoz-Jaramillo and Piet Martens. The team concluded that the sun's interior hot plasma flow known as the 'meridional circulation' is a likely cause for the long lasting lack of sunspots. It is important in science to understand the behavior of the sun because it affects electronics in and outside of the Earths atmosphere.

Evelyn Boswell - MSU News Service

Sunspots normally have 11-year cycles. Sometimes sunspots are so abundant that they cover 1 percent of the sun's surface. Sometimes they disappear. But the recent lull lasted twice as long as usual.

The last time such a thing occurred was around 1913, Martens said. Before that, it happened in 1810.

The discovery that the rare phenomenon, an extra-long "solar minimum," coincides with unusually weak magnetic fields at the sun's poles has drawn widespread attention, with NASA scheduling a teleconference to discuss it and journalists from around the world contacting team members for interviews.

Understanding sunspots is important because solar activities influence space weather, which affects technology in space and on the Earth, Martens said.

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