The sun has erupted more than two dozen times over the last week, sending radiation and solar material hurtling through space - and scientists say more eruptions may be coming.
This shouldn't be unusual. After all, we are technically at solar maximum, the peak of the 11-year cycle of the sun's activity. But this has been a noticeably mellow solar maximum, with the sun staying fairly quiet throughout the summer. So when our life-giving star suddenly let loose with 24 medium strength M-class solar flares and four significantly stronger X-class flares between Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, it felt like a surprise.
Many of the flares originated from sunspot AR1884, a particularly active region of the sun that is currently facing Earth, almost at the center of the star. If this region stays active, it will continue to hurl radiation and solar material our way for about another week until it rotates out of sight.
A sunspot is an area of the sun where the magnetic fields have gotten all twisted up. "You get a tangled bunch of magnetic fields, and they get too tangled and too stressed, they end up erupting," said Holly Gilbert, a solar physicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.