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Science File | In Brief

Sunspots Devour, Spit Out Materials

November 12, 2001

Sunspots act like planet-sized hurricanes that suck in materials from below the sun's surface as fast as they spit it out above the surface, allowing the spots to persist for long periods of time. Astronomers have long known that blockages in the magnetic field below the sun's surface allow solar gases to cool, forming darker spots, but it was not clear why they persisted.

A team from NASA and Stanford University reported recently that satellite observations of the spots show the hurricane-like vortex is powerful enough to draw materials through blockage in the magnetic field, allowing the spot to replenish itself. More information and images are available at: http://gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/20010919sunspot.html.

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Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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