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A butterfly diagram of the latitude of sunspot occurrence versus time.
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NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Maunder's Butterfly Diagram

Throughout the solar_cycle, the latitude of sunspot occurrence varies with an interesting pattern. The plot on the left shows the latitude of sunspot occurence versus time (in years). Sunspots are typically confined to an equatorial belt between -35 degrees south and +35 degrees north latitude. At the beginning of a new solar cycle, sunspots tend to form at high latitudes, but as the cycle reaches a maximum (large numbers of sunspots) the spots form at lower latitudes. Near the minimum of the cycle, sunspots appear even closer to the equator, and as a new cycle starts again, sunspots again appear at high latitudes. This recurrent behavior of sunspots gives rise to the ``butterfly'' pattern shown, and was first discovered by Edward Maunder in 1904. The reason for this sunspot migration pattern is unknown. Understanding this pattern could tell us something about how the Sun's internal magnetic field is generated.


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Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Sunspots

Sunspots are dark spots on the Sun. They may look small, but they are actually as big as a planet like Earth or Mars! Sunspots are "dark" because they are colder than the areas around them. Of course,...more

Maunder's Butterfly Diagram

Throughout the solar_cycle, the latitude of sunspot occurrence varies with an interesting pattern. The plot on the left shows the latitude of sunspot occurence versus time (in years). Sunspots are typically...more

Creating Elements up to Iron

When the temperature in the core of a star is really hot (100 million degrees Kelvin!) fusion of Helium into Carbon happens. Oxygen is also formed when the temperature is this high. When it gets even hotter...more

Binding Energy

A plot of the binding energy per nucleon vs. atomic mass shows a peak atomic number 56 (Iron). Elements with atomic mass less then 56 release energy if formed as a result of a fusion reaction. Above this...more

Fusion Experiments

Nuclear fusion has been achieved in a controlled manner (that means no bombs are involved!!). Right now, these fusion experiments take in more energy than they produce. So they can't be used right now...more

The Hydrogen Bomb

In the Hydrogen bomb, an explosion takes place so that the temperature and density is right for fusion to occur. This fusion results in a sudden release of energy that produces an even bigger explosion....more

The Big Bang

All of the matter and energy in the Universe was initially found in a very small space. An explosion happened which caused the Universe to begin expanding. ...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA