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Team unravels sunspot mystery

December 9, 2002

In what may be one of the most important steps in understanding sunspots since they were discovered by Chinese sky watchers more than two millennia ago, researchers at Rochester, along with researchers at the University of Colorado, University of Cambridge, and University of Leeds, have reported an answer to several sunspot mysteries in the current issue of Nature.

"We believe we have found the key to understanding the structure of sunspots," says John Thomas, professor of mechanical and aerospace sciences and of astronomy. "It's the missing link of sunspot evolution--explaining why the main magnetic tube gets torn apart like a peeled banana, why some lines of force dive back below the surface of the sun, and why sunspots grow a penumbra in the first place."