With little warning, three big sunspots have materialized and on March 25th one of them (989) unleashed an M2-class solar flare. This is the biggest flare of the year and it signals a significant increase in solar activity. The eruption also produced a coronal mass ejection (CME), but auroras are unlikely because the cloud is not heading toward Earth: movie.

"It's March Madness," says Greg Piepol who photographed the three sunspots from his backyard observatory in Rockville, Maryland:

3 sun spots
©Greg Piepol

LISTEN: During the M2-flare, radio astronomer Thomas Ashcraft heard a curious "heaving sound" coming from the loudspeaker of his 21 MHz radio telescope in New Mexico: listen. "It was a Type II solar radio burst," he explains. Such bursts are generated by shock waves at the leading edge of CMEs.

NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of more M-flares during the next 24 hours. Readers, if you have a solar telescope, now is a good time to monitor the sun.