NASA has published this remarkable side by side video comparison of solar activity in 2008 and 2011.
Ignore the obvious – the sun didn’t change colour. The earlier captures were from the SoHo spacecraft, the latter the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The light spots are areas capable of producing solar storms. Note the dramatic increase in activity over the past two years.
2008 marked the quietest period in the solar activity cycle, the maximum is predicted to occur in 2013. We’re roughly half way through that cycle. Imagine what a 2013 vs 2008 comparison will look like.