You’re likely familiar with solar flares. The giant eruptions of super-heated plasma fly off the surface of the sun. They can reach far into space, and affect airplanes here on Earth. You may be less familiar with sunspots. These appear to be dark spots in the sun’s outer layers brought on by intense magnetic fields, and slightly cooler areas on the suns surface. They are also thought to affect things on Earth, as groups of sunspots often see flares pop-up around them.
Here you can watch some of the phenomena from the ultra-violet camera aboard the Solar Dynamic Observatory. It’s beautiful and haunting. Some sunspots can be larger than the Earth, not to mention the entirety of the United States. via Space.com