Theories? The Weird Message my Cable Company Sent... : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

We have digital cable. TCI Cable in North Texas, to be exact. Since it is digital, they can put a little message in the menu for subscribers to read when they have something they want to commmunicate (like PAY YOUR BILL! Just kidding.) Anyway, we get one today and it is titled "Sun Outages" My curiosity is piqued. Here is the message exactly as it was on my TV screen:

10/8 Oct. 1-16 11 AM - 1 PM 3 PM - 5 PM

The broad spectral energy of the sun overpowers the comparatively weak signals received from the satellites, creating programming outages during the times and dates listed above.

End quote.

How the hey do they KNOW when these solar flares (I am assuming that is what they are referring to) are going to happen and exactly when they will affect the programming, down to these 16 days in a row and the exact hours? Seems weird that a solar flare would only affect the satellites between 11 am and 1 pm and 3 pm and 5 pm every day for 16 days and that's it. By the way, the 10/8 at the beginning of the first line refers to the date this message was sent out to subscribers. But these "solar flare" outages started 8 days before the message was sent out (supposedly). I had noticed that the cable wasn't avaiable at certain times but hadn't noticed that it was always in the same time frame, because I don't watch TV every day. I called TCI Cable to ask the same questions and got a Customer Service operator who literally read the message that is on my TV screen to me. I told her I KNEW how to read, for crying out loud, but what does it MEAN? She would simply read the message, word for word, again. We went round and round like that three times before I became exasperated and asked her for her supervisor. She told me he wasn't there and I said "Figures" and hung up.

My first thought was that they were doing Y2K testing....any cable people out there? Theories?

-- Preparing (, October 09, 1999


NO big deal, it happens at this time every year. I work at a TV station, and we have always had problems in the fall with solar flares.

Same with radio stations and anyone else who uses satellites for communications.

Don't worry, nothing sinister is going on.

-- ActionBill (, October 09, 1999.

Thanks Action....but how do they know the time, or are they just figuring on being down 4 hours a day in advance?

-- preparing (, October 09, 1999.

That's easy. Done a little bit of GPS'ing in my day so I believe I'm familiar with this phenomena. A satellite orbit or "ephemeris" can usually be predicted to extreme accuracy, and this information is available in a satellite "almanac" which is constantly updated. But things like the moon's gravity or the sun's radiation are sometimes significant enough to change these orbits very slightly. Well, when you're dealing with the kind of accuracies that these satellites operate on (they use atomic clocks), a change from the calculated orbit, even in milliseconds, is enough to cause problems with reception of the signal. The reason I think they are able to specify these exact periods is that it is all calculated geometrically when the sun is most likely to exert the most pressure on the satellites.

-- @ (@@@.@), October 09, 1999.

I have satellite, not cable. Yesterday my satellite system with 3 receivers was down. When I called customer service, she attributed it to "solar equinox". After a few minutes, system came back on line.

I don't attribute it to Y2K testing. Satellites are very sensitive to solar flares.

-- Cheryl (, October 09, 1999.

Imagine looking at that same satellite with a telescope, along the same line of sight as that of your satellite dish. All year long the only thing you see through the telescope is the satellite with the deep dark sky behind it. But one day you see the Sun and it is very bright. It is also a very strong emitter of interference. At that point in time your satellite dish is overwhelmed by the strong background interference of the sun. This usually passes in a couple of minutes.

-- no talking please (, October 09, 1999.

No Talking Please,

You nailed it. I thought I was going to have to chime in and let them know it has to do with the spring and fall equinox when the sun crosses behind the satellites. It overwhelms the weak signal from the satellite (the sun does radiate radio but really it is the heat that overwhelms the LNB) has nothing to do with solar flares which cause different kinds of problems.

-- LM (, October 09, 1999.

Cable person here(raising hand with eagerness) but everyone else already answered the question just fine. As for Y2K testing, our new head end equipment STILL has not arrived. We are still not close to being ready in that department.

PS...disclaimer...while I have Adelphia Cable internet modem... service/address, this is NOT the cable co I work for.

-- kritter (, October 09, 1999.

Hi All,

These 'sun outages' have nothing to do with solar flares.

What happens is that the geosynchronous satellites (which orbit at exactly the same rate as the Earth rotates) will align themselves exactly with the sun -- in the spring and in the fall. When this happens, the radio 'noise' produced by the sun will overwhelm the tiny tranmitters on the satellites.

So the next time you get a sun outage, you know that the receiving dish antenna is pointed exactly at the sun.

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (, October 10, 1999.

Thanks for the answers everyone. I feel a lot less paranoid now. But a lot stupider. Teachers don't get to feel stupid too often. Thanks for the opportunity! ;=) Now to get my DH calmed down--he is convinced it is part of some sinister plot. He has REALLY got to stop downing huge pots of coffee and listening to what'shisname Bell all night. (Can't think of his first name--sun outage causing my brain to fry.)

-- Preparing (, October 10, 1999.


-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), October 11, 1999.

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