According to the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, the most explosive events that occur on the Sun include solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Solar flares are massive eruptions of energy from the Sun's surface that represent up to 10 million times the explosive power of a volcanic eruption. In some cases, flares trigger coronal mass ejections, an event that throws plasma and clouds of helium out into the solar system.
Both solar flares and coronal mass ejections can prove troublesome to Earth. The high-energy particles thrown out by these events can ionize the atmosphere, interfering with communications and triggering massive displays known as the Northern and Southern Lights. Outside of Earth's protective atmosphere, flares are potentially dangerous to astronauts due to the high levels of radiation these events produce. Scientists study the Sun's natural cycles to predict these events, or at least pinpoint times when solar activity is likely to increase or decrease. During the Sun's solar maximum, several flares and coronal mass ejections might occur each day, while minimum periods produce long stretches of inactivity between volatile eruptions. The Sun's solar cycle lasts approximately 11 years, during which the magnetic field of the star fluctuates significantly, producing these explosions.