That 12-hour geomagnetic storm the other night that made the sky look all funky for some Northerners? Here it is in breathtaking HD. And NASA says that this just marks the start of a long, crazy solar storm season.

Man, the sun really does look pretty hot, doesn't it? And it certainly looks feisty in this clip, shot by NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory Ahead telescope, but apparently we're in for even more disruptive/awesome sun burping over the next few years:

The Sun goes through a regular activity cycle that lasts about 11 years, cycling between activity (solar maximum) and quiet (solar minimum). The last solar maximum was in 2001 followed by a long period of very little activity. The eruptions are among the first signs that the Sun is waking up and beginning to move towards another solar maximum, expected to occur in about 2013.

C'mon, can't we push back the 2012 apocalypse at least a year or two, just so we can see the solar maximum with all these crazy new telescopes? [NASA]