TV & Streaming

What Are Sun Spots and Why Do They Affect My Cable TV?

Do you ever notice that your TV signal might randomly break up in the afternoon during the late winter into early spring and again in late summer into early fall ?  You’re not seeing things!  This is actually the sun interfering with your TV signal. Many of the channels that Service Electric delivers are received from satellites 22,000 miles up in space, and received on 12 to 25 foot satellite dishes at one of our Lehigh Valley facilities.  Twice-a-year, the sun is perfectly aligned behind these satellites and the intensity of the sun overpowers the dishes’ ability to receive the signal.  This generally happens in mid to late afternoon and can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

At Service Electric, we do everything possible to limit these outages, including bringing in backup signals during these times of year. However, we can’t control the sun, and you may experience some tiling or breakup on some channels during this time. We apologize for this inconvenience because it not only interferes with your TV signal, but also marks the end of summer!

Here’s the technical explanation…

A sun outage, sun transit or sun fade is an interruption in or distortion of geostationary/geosynchronous satellite signals caused by interference from solar radiation. The effect is due to the sun’s radiation overwhelming the satellite signal.

In the northern hemisphere, sun outages occur before the March equinox (February, March) and after the September equinox (September and October), and in the southern hemisphere the outages occur after the March equinox and before the September equinox. 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. The sun radiates strongly across the entire spectrum, including the microwave frequencies used to communicate with satellites (C-band, Ku band, and Ka band), so the sun swamps the signal from the satellite. The effects of a sun outage range from partial degradation (increase in the error rate) to total destruction of the signal. The effect sweeps from north to south from approximately 20 February to 20 April, and from south to north from approximately 20 August to 20 October, affecting any specific location for less than 12 minutes a day for a few consecutive days.