Between now and October 15th, there’s a chance that your TV set will start acting kind of crazy – maybe a black screen, image tiling or freezing. There’s no need to call us, an exorcist or the UN’s alien ambassador. This phenomenon is caused by solar interference with the satellites that beam TV signals into the head end and occurs every year during February/March and September/October.
This is something that affects all satellite communications, and is in no way related to problems at the cable plant.
A sun outage, sun transit or sun fade is an interruption in or distortion of geostationary satellite signals caused by interference from solar radiation. The effect is due to the sun’s radiation overwhelming the satellite signal. Generally, sun outages occur in February, March, September and October, that is, around the time of the equinoxes. At these times, the apparent path of the sun across the sky takes it directly behind the line of sight between an earth station and a satellite. As the sun radiates strongly at the microwave frequencies used to communicate with satellites (C-band, Ka band and Ku band) the sun swamps the signal from the satellite. The effects of a sun outage can include partial degradation, that is, an increase in the error rate, or total destruction of the signal.
For a list of specific channels and the window of time that they may be affected, you can follow this link: Solar Interference Schedule, October 2-12, 2010.
We’re really sorry for any inconvenience that you might experience during this time. It’s frustrating to everyone, trust me. My Mad Men time is SACRED, and I don’t want anything screwing it up. Even though digital communications seem seamless and cold, they’re still part of the physical world. Ask any kid that’s ever held a magnet up to the TV set.