The Solar System

What is a sunspot cycle?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Since 1874, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, located in London, England, has been observing and recording the number, size and location of sunspots -- irregular dark spots on the sun. Researchers have noticed that during a period of about 11 years, the number of sunspots increases from almost none to more than 100, then the frequency of sunspots slowly declines to near zero again, beginning a new cycle. When the cycle begins, most of the sunspots are located in the mid-latitudes of the sun, but as the cycle continues, they form closer to the equator. The period when the number of sunspots reaches its peak is known as the solar maximum, and the years when sunspot activity is at its lowest level are known as the solar minimum. The Maunder minimum, named after the astronomer who discovered it, was a period of 60 years during which there were very few, if any, sunspots.

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