The uptick in solar activity is all part of the natural 11-year cycle of the sun, which is expected to reach its peak by 2013.
Today's event is yet another reminder that we live in the realm of a highly dynamic star and with the help of solar observatories like NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), we can look deep into the solar corona where these impressive explosions are generated.
Images: Top: The view through the SDO's AIA 131A filter, sensitive to superheated plasma of several million degrees Kelvin (Celsius) high in the sun's corona, minutes after the flare erupted. Middle: Sunspot activity in the sun's photosphere around AR1520 - using the SDO's HMI instrument. Bottom: The lower corona as seen by the SDO's 171A filter, sensitive to plasma that is approximately a million degrees. Credit: SDO/AIA/HMI/NASA