Here comes the sun – Solar Outages and the effects on satellite services.
When do solar outages occur?
Solar outages occur during the spring (February/March) and autumn (September/October) equinox when a satellite is on the part of its orbit where it comes between the Sun and the Earth.
During this time satellite signal is lost due to the overwhelming radio noise output of the Sun. The effects of solar outage range from a degradation of signal (an increase in bit errors) to total, destruction of the signal where it’s completely overwhelmed by the radio noise of the Sun.
How long will this last?
Fortunately the duration of these biannual events is relatively short lasing a few minutes a day. Typically 15 minute slots over a few days (about 9) but, this can result in end users calling about a loss of signal or interference during these times. This can be a point of frustration for an IRS engineer as by the time you arrive on site the problem has mysteriously gone away. Also it’s worth noting it would be impossible to point your satellite dish effectively at these times.
Smaller satellite dishes suffer more from this effect due to their wider focal point (a Zone 1 dish for example). Larger dishes typically used for IRS have a much narrower focal point and suffer slightly less.