The Sun appears committed to being a lot more active during this solar cycle compared to the previous one. We've definitely had an uptick in flares, filaments, and coronal mass ejections and we are still a couple of years away from the expected solar maximum.
Just a couple of days ago, the Sun released a filament of plasma stretching for 200,000 kilometers (120,000 miles). That’s just over half the distance between the Earth and the Moon, and it would comfortably fit almost 17 Earths side-by-side.
As reported by The Weather Channel, the event was accompanied by coronal mass ejections. These can cause geomagnetic storms but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s Space Weather prediction center doesn’t expect any major activity. At most, there will be some minor radio issues on the sunlit side of the planet for the next 24 hours.
You can see the filament shoot out in the video below at about 7 o'clock on a clock face.
But this relatively chilled event shouldn’t lull us into a false sense of security. Just a few days ago, on October 2, the Sun emitted a flare of the X class, the most intense class of flares. It was an X-1 so not the most powerful in this class but a lot more powerful than what we have seen in a while.
Flares of all types can affect technology on Earth, and the more powerful they are the higher the risk. Radio communication, electric power grids, navigation signals, and even military installations can be affected and disrupted, while spacecraft and astronauts are at risk too.