After a recent period of unrest, the sun has re-established what it means to be a star experiencing solar maximum - it fired off not one, but two of the most powerful class of solar flares in quick succession.
PHOTOS: Simmering Solar Views from SDO
This morning, at 08:01 UT (4:01 a.m. EDT), a new sunspot group roiling with intense magnetic activity (designated active region 1882, or AR1882) kicked off an X1 flare over the sun's eastern limb. The flaring region generated intense extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) emissions, signifying the intense acceleration and energization of multimillion degree plasma in the lower corona (the hot atmosphere of the sun). According to Spaceweather.com, it appears that this event was linked to a global magnetic disturbance that likely triggered the flare.
But AR1882 wasn't done. A few hours later, at 15:07 UT (11:07 a.m. EDT), an even more powerful eruption rocked the sun - an X2 flare (pictured top). On the scale of solar flare classifications, an X2 flare is twice as powerful as an X1 flare.
VIDEO: The Sun is About to Flip
The sun is currently a hothouse of magnetic activity - smaller flares are currently popping off in two other active regions, AR1875 and AR1877. This follows an unexpected lull in activity during a period when the sun should be generating numerous flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). This year is the predicted peak of solar activity for this solar cycle - a period known as "solar maximum."
As the sun continues to erupt, generating an energetic space weather environment, we can expect an increase in auroral activity over high latitudes.
Image credit: NASA/SDO