Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has one job only, and that is to observe the Sun. The spacecraft was launched in 2010, and has been providing a steady stream of high quality images of the Sun since then. The data received from the SDO is made available to the public soon after the spacecraft collects it. This allows continuous and almost real-time monitoring of the activity on the Sun.
The SDO just captured images of six consecutive M-Class flares. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. The bursts are not strong enough to affect humans on Earth, but can affect the navigation satellites. The SDO's primary purpose is to predict space weather, and the activity on the Sun is the source of most of the local space weather. The SDO is the first spacecraft launched under Nasa's Living with a Star program.
The solar flares are classified into five categories, according to the energy released by the flares when they peak in output. These are A, B, C, M and X. The M class flares are about a tenth of the power of X class flares. The output of the flares were M4.4, M5.4, M1.4, M2.1, M5.8 and M5.7. The number stands for relative energy output compared to the minimum energy output of each class. An M3 flare is three times as intense as an M1 flare, and an M4 flare is four times as intense as an M1 flare.