Spectacular video of solar flares will mesmerize you

Wednesday marked five years since NASA launched its sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) into space. To commemorate the anniversary, the agency compiled this breathtaking video of violent but beautiful explosions on our central star.

Scientists use SDO's images to better understand how Earth is affected by the sun's activity. SDO watches the sun 24 hours a day, capturing more than an image per second. In late 2014, it observed one of the largest sun spots seen in the last 20 years, as well as a torrent of intense solar flares, bursts of light, energy and X-rays.

The video -- five years' worth of footage cut into five minutes of amazing highlights -- shows solar flares, coronal mass ejections, in which a giant cloud of solar material erupts off the sun and heads off into space, and the growing and shrinking of massive sun spots.