Sun busts out trio of moderate solar flares that might herald more activity

A trio of moderate flares blasted off from the sun on Thursday (May 19), and there might be more in store.

The solar flares come amid a noticeable uptick in solar activity in recent months. says a storm is swirling around sunspot AR3014, to the extent that the region is "literally seething." As the magnetic lines twist and tangle, they may snap and send a coronal mass ejection towards our planet.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote SpaceWeather, "estimate a 35% chance of M-class solar flares and a 15% chance of X-flares on May 19."

Related: The sun's wrath: Worst solar storms in history

An M-class solar flare that occurred on May 19, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/ESA/

X-flares are the strongest possible class of flares, and should they erupt from this particular sunspot, they would be "geoeffective" due to the sunspot facing Earth. Flares are often accompanied by CMEs, which would arrive a little later.

So far scientists have seen a flurry of X-rays associated with the M-class flares, as captured by NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-16 (GOES-16) satellite that monitors the Americas.

The sun seems to have woken up in early 2022 as it moves towards the peak of its solar cycle in 2025. It has fired off numerous flares in recent weeks, including a few X-class ones.

An outburst from the sun that occurred on May 19, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/ESA/

Usually the CMEs following flares are harmless and just create colorful auroras high up in the atmosphere. But in some very rare cases, they can disrupt satellites, power lines and other infrastructure. So scientists keep gazing at the sun to assess its dynamics and to predict space weather as best as possible.

In the United States, for example, both NASA and NOAA look at the sun all the time. A sungazing mission known as Parker Solar Probe is sweeping in close to look at the corona or superheated outer region of the sun, as other satellites watch from further afield to gain context.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: