Say hello to one of the most violent sunspots we've seen in years

You're looking at a picture of Active Region 1429 — that's the decidedly dull name that NOAA has given the sunspot region behind some of the most wicked solar flares and coronal mass ejections astronomers have seen in close to decade.

Remember all that news last week about downed radio communications and rerouted plane flights? You've got AR1429 to thank for that. And while this particular flare has almost rotated entirely out of Earth's view, astronomers say we can expect even more instances of violent solar activity in the months and years ahead, as we approach what's called the solar maximum — the period of peak solar activity in the Sun's roughly 11-year solar cycle.

This particular photo was captured on March 11 by astrophotographer Alan Friedman. [Hi res available here]. Friedman used what's called an Hα filter to photograph the narrow (albeit visible) wavelength of light emitted by hydrogen atoms on the surface of the Sun. He then inverted the image so that the hottest regions would appear darker than their surroundings.

You can see more of Friedman's work over on his website.
Hat tip to Meghan!