Say goodbye to the solar minimum.
After a lull in solar activity that on many days left a "blank sun" with no sunspots at all, a big one popped up this past weekend, marking a change in the sun's weather.
The big sunspot designated 1045 showed up Saturday, and since has shot several flares off the surface.
"The strongest blast ... may have hurled a coronal mass ejection toward Earth," reports the astronomy news service Spaceweather.com. "High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras in the nights ahead as a result of this activity. Also, ham radio operators are picking up strong solar radio bursts using shortwave receivers."
Auroras are commonly called "northern lights" and give the night sky a colorful sheen in places such as Alaska and Canada.
According to a 2009 report on National Public Radio, astronomers track an 11-year sunspot cycle that has been steady since the 1700s. The last peak in solar activity was in 2001, when 150-175 sunspots were recorded. During the solar minimum in 2008, the sun was blank for 266 days.
This solar cycle will be No. 24.