Perhaps you didn't notice anything unusual this past weekend--other than especially large hordes of holiday shoppers. But in fact, Earth's magnetosphere was blasted by aftershocks from the first of at least four large solar explosions that took place on Thanksgiving and the day after. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's Extreme Ultraviolet Telescope captured these explosions, which were triggered by a series of solar flares over sunspot group 9236, near the center of the sun's Earth-facing disk. The explosions unleashed what are known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), streams of high-energy particles shot our way. The effects of the CMEs--namely, geomagnetic storms here on Earth--are expected to be felt through Wednesday. For sky watchers, this means the chance to see auroras after sunset.
This is the second time this month that the sun has put on a dramatic show of lights, flares and bangs. On November 8th and 9th an especially powerful solar flare and CME sprayed SOHO's CCD camera with a cloud of high-energy particles, creating snowy pictures. The same spray fogged two cameras on board Stardust and paralyzed the satellite, stunning it into standby mode. The craft did not come back into contact with handlers on Earth until November 11th.