The kind of spotless image that caused solar physicists to ask "where have all the sunpsots gone?" (All images courtesy of NASA)
Direct observation of sunspots has, more or less, been going on continuously since they were first observed in the seventeenth century. So, you can imagine the puzzled expressions on the faces of astronomers the world over when the phenomena all-but disappeared from view for a couple of years recently. Now, research sponsored by NASA and the government of India has produced the first computer model that explains the prolonged cyclic minima during 2008 - 2009. The simulations suggest that plasma currents deep inside the sun interfered with the formation of sunspots.