A busy day on the Sun

False-color images of three massive solar flares which have all occurred in the last 24 hours.  (Image credit: NASA)

I mentioned yesterday that the Sun had just experienced its most powerful flare of 2013 - a so-called X-class flare.  Now it turns out that the Sun wasn't done: it's emitted three X-class flares in the last 24 hours alone.  Each has been accompanied by a coronal mass ejection.  Coronal mass ejections are huge bursts of material thrown off the surface of the Sun.  Although they commonly occur in conjunction with solar flares, scientists haven't yet definitively linked the phenomena.  If such ejections strike the Earth, they can have harmful consequences, from disrupting radio communications to widespread power outages.  Fortunately, none of these ejections are travelling towards us.  Astronauts aboard the International Space Station must be especially careful, as coronal mass ejections are accompanied by waves of powerful radiation.

The above image shows pictures of each flare as captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a space-based solar telescope.  Captured at a wavelength not visible to the human eye, these images have been artificially colored teal.  

Source: NASA