Only 93 million miles from Earth, a certain G-type star is beginning to act up.
Every 11 years or so, the solar cycle brings a period of high solar activity. Giant islands of magnetism—”sunspots”—break through the stellar surface in increasing numbers. Sometimes they erupt like a billion atomic bombs going off at once, producing intense flares of X-rays and UV radiation, and hurling massive clouds of plasma toward Earth.This is happening right now. Only a few years ago the Sun was in a state of deep quiet, but as 2012 unfolds, the pendulum is swinging. Strong flares are becoming commonplace as sunspots once again pepper the solar disk. Fortunately, Earth is defended from solar storms by a strong, global magnetic field.