I took this picture of the Sun with a small telescope fitted with a solar filter earlier today. The giant sunspot group on the left has a dark core easily big enough to swallow the Earth. Astronomers have labelled it AR2192. At around 6am on Sunday AR2192 unleashed a powerful X-class flare. It wasn't Earth directed. However, the rotation of the Sun will carry AR2192 towards and Earth facing position in a few days and any flares of that magnitude are very likely to create good chances to see the aurora soon after that.
Although the Sun is at period of maximum, this has been the weakest solar max for more than a century. Big sunspots have been few and far between and the number of aurorae visible from the UK has not compared to the previous solarmax in 2000. I saw quite a number of auroras between 2000-2005 from Northumberland. There's still time to see more and hopefully the Sun will oblige with a big solar flare or two this week.
Dr Adrian Jannetta
Guitar strummin' explorer of the universe. Mild mannered maths teacher by day and astronomer by night.