The sun is spurting all manner of plasma this year and next, with sunspots bursting forth in solar flares and coronal mass ejections every few days. A few of them have shot straight at Mother Earth, though none has yet to be stronger than a medium-class flare.
Those don’t tend to do much damage, but they make the aurora borealis pack a wallop. The most recent one to blast toward us occurred on April 11, an M-Class flare of magnitude 6.5 or so that jolted the Northern Lights. It was the strongest solar flare and CME this year so far, NASA said. (Related: Strongest Sun Eruption This Year Headed Straight Toward Earth, Alights Aurora)
A complacent sun can change in a solar instant, of course. On Saturday April 20 two sunspots suddenly formed in the sun’s northern hemisphere, according to Spaceweather.com. Whether they will erupt or flare remains to be seen. Also unknown is whether the spots will be pointing toward Earth when or if that happens. The sunspots go by the names AR1726 and AR1727, Spaceweather.com reported.
“AR1726 is the fastest-growing and, so far, the most active. It is crackling with C-class flares and seems capable of producing even stronger M-class eruptions,” Spaceweather.com said on April 21. “Because of the sunspot's central location on the solar disk, any explosions this weekend will be Earth-directed. Stay tuned.”
Below is what happened after just such a sunspot erupted and ignited the aurora borealis on March 17, 2013. Göran Strand from Östersund, Sweden photographed the aurora resulting from the CME’s hit onto Earth’s magnetic field with an all-sky camera. (Related: Aurora Borealis Bathes Turtle Island in Saint Patrick's Day Green)
Be sure to note how small Mother Earth is, especially in relation to sunspot AR1692, when it’s pointed out at the beginning.