The sun was relatively quiet at the end of 2014, at least in comparison to some of the powerful solar storms seen earlier in the year. But it only took a couple of weeks of 2015 for the star to send out some crazy streams of radiation. These images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory record the sun's peak activity at 11:24 p.m. Eastern time Monday.

During a solar flare, dark spots of high magnetic energy shoot off from the star, sending radiation into space — and sometimes towards us. In some cases, solar flares (aka solar storms) can cause planet-wide radio blackouts here on Earth.

No, you didn't sleep through a major halt in radio communications. Monday's solar activity was only an M-class flare — solidly in the middle of flare classification, based on X-ray brightness. C-class flares are hardly noticeable on Earth, and M-class flares typically only cause brief interruptions in radio waves, and even then only in polar regions. It's an X-class flare that can really make itself known.