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Hyperactive sun fires off 3 major solar flares in 1 day

NASA/SDO

The strongest solar flare of 2013 erupted Monday from the sun. This image of the flare, shown in the upper left corner, was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observator.

The sun, it seems, is in overdrive. Late Monday night, the sun unleashed its third major solar flare in 24 hours — the biggest and most powerful solar storm of the year, so far. 

This latest sun storm erupted Monday at 9:11 p.m. ET and registered as an X3.2 solar flare, one of the strongest types of flares the sun can release, space weather officials said. It came on the heels of two other recent X-class solar flares on Sunday night and Monday, all of which were sparked by a highly active sunspot on the sun's far left side. 

Officials at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., marveled at the intense activity from the crackling sunspot. 

"Clearly an extraordinary active region is making its way fully onto the visible disk," SWPC officials wrote in a morning update Tuesday. "Can it keep up this hectic pace?" 

Two of the three recent solar flares have been associated with massive explosions, called coronal mass ejections, which flung super-hot solar material into space at millions of miles per hour. Because the sunspot firing off the flares is not yet facing Earth, the solar eruptions pose no threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, NASA has said. 

"This marks the 3rd X-class flare in 24 hours," officials with NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory wrote in a statement. "Just like the two before this one also happened over the eastern limb of the sun and is not Earth-directed."