OUR planet is being bombarded by high-energy particles unleashed by the strongest solar storm since 2005, scientists say.

The charged particles are mostly a concern for satellites - which they can disrupt - and astronauts. But they can also cause communication problems for aircraft travelling near the poles. The geomagnetic storm has been caused by a potent flare that erupted from the Sun at 0400 GMT on Sunday.

The effects are likely to be felt on Earth throughout Wednesday. A more benign effect of the outpouring of particles is the ability to see aurorae, or “Northern lights”, further south than is usually possible.

A spokesman for US space agency Nasa said that flight surgeons and solar scientists have modelled the flare’s predicted effects. They decided that the six astronauts on the International Space Station do not have to take any action to protect themselves from the incoming stream of particles. Solar flares are caused by the sudden release of magnetic energy stored in the Sun’s atmosphere.

In an event called a coronal mass ejection (CME), bursts of charged particles are released into space. This can interfere with technology on Earth, such as electrical power grids, communications systems and satellites - including satellite navigation (or sat-nav) signals.–BBC