In yesterday's issue of Science, NASA solar physicist David Hathaway reports that the top of the sun's Great Conveyor Belt has been running at record-high speeds for the past five years.
"I believe this could explain the unusually deep solar minimum we've been experiencing," says Hathaway. "The high speed of the conveyor belt challenges existing models of the solar cycle and it has forced us back to the drawing board for new ideas."
The Great Conveyor Belt is a massive circulating current of fire (hot plasma) within the Sun. It has two branches, north and south, each taking about 40 years to perform one complete circuit. Researchers believe the turning of the belt controls the sunspot cycle. (read more)