On April 28, 2015, a very large “solar prominence” erupted from the Sun, resulting in these awesome images recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Eruptions like this are actually quite common, and often very beautiful. The prominence itself (also sometimes known as a “filament”) is essentially a thin veil of very hot gas suspended above the solar surface by magnetic fields. Sometimes, via some process we still don’t fully understand, the prominence will dramatically rip away from the solar surface and blast off into space as a “coronal mass ejection” (CME).
This particular event was not Earth-directed, so we will see few – if any – affects at Earth. Even if it had come towards us, there’s no reason to believe it would have created a geomagnetic (“solar”) storm at Earth that was any stronger or weaker than any other storm we see numerous times per year.
“It is not uncommon for prominence material to drain back to the surface as well as escape during an eruption,” states Holly Gilbert a Goddard solar physicist. “In fact, it’s a little strange when ALL of the mass escapes. Prominences are large structures, so once the magnetic fields supporting the mass are stretched out so that they are more vertical, it allows an easy path for some of the mass to drain back down.”