Chances are, almost everyone reading this right now has some kind of cable or Internet service provided through a coaxial connection to their homes. If you do, you may have received some kind of notice from your cable provider letting you know that you may experience outages or disruptions this week.
The notices, which are commonly referred to as “Sun Outage” notices, are a respectful gesture from our cable companies to let us know that something with the Sun is about to uncontrollably cause interference issues with their satellites. These Sun outages are typical around this time of the year, every year.
The Sun outage occurs when the satellite aligns perfectly (or near perfectly) between the Sun and the Earth, essentially creating an eclipse.
The bright Sun rays and radiation that the Sun gives off make it more difficult to receive a clear signal from the satellites. When the satellite is in the same spot of the sky as the Sun, receivers here on Earth have a hard time seeing the satellite and communicating with it.
For example, imagine trying to look into the sky to look at an airplane right next to the Sun – it’s not that easy is it? On the other hand, if the plane was on the opposite side of the sky than the Sun, you’d have no trouble looking at it.
Christi Whitworth, director of education at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, says that the problem occurs at least twice a year and that the problem can affect anyone that relies a cable company that uses a satellite to transmit information to subscribers.
“Everyone whose company uses a satellite to transmit the data of the TV signal has times of year when this would be occurring,” Whitworth explained, “unless they have a satellite orbit that never crosses the sun.”
The problem isn’t a huge one, and most likely, not everyone will even notice it happening. The interference can cause distorted images on the television, which includes blocks or lines on the screen, and even poor sound quality, but only for short periods of time. If the interference gets really bad, it can affect the user for up to 15 minutes each day before the cable reception starts working normally again.
Since not every cable company is affected, you’ll have to get in touch with yours personally to ask about the solar outage scenario. This way, you’ll be able to get a flat answer on whether or not you can expect to be a victim of the Sun’s alignment with your cable company’s satellite.
Hopefully, you won’t miss any of your favorite T.V. shows this week due to Sun outage!