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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Solar Cable Outages -- A Rite of Spring

The delivery of cable television programming bounced off of an orbiting satellite is an amazingly useful and reliable way to get a wide variety of entertainment, but, twice a year, it has some hiccups. Over the next few days those hiccups will affect your television viewing for ten to fifteen minutes per day. Then it will happen again in late summer at the end of September and first of October.

During the equinoxes, as the apparent path of the sun across our sky moves from the southern latitudes toward the northern ones (bringing with it SPRING!!), our satellite dish has trouble picking up the signals from the satellites out in space which are transmitting the cable programming. Anyone who has driven by our offices, and observed the giant dish looking at the southern sky, has seen the technology we use to deliver most of the cable channels you see in your homes. Except for about eighteen days per year, that dish easily receives those signals from a number of satellites parked out about 22,000 miles in the sky.

On those other days, the sun actually moves directly into a line stretching from the sun, to the satellites and then to our dish behind 100 Mallory Drive in Glasgow, Kentucky. For the time that those three elements line up (normally about 20 minutes per day), the satellite dish is blinded by the sun and cannot "see" the satellite. That results in your cable programming getting sparkles in it, then progressively getting worse until it actually falls apart for a few minutes. Then, as the sun moves along and the satellite reappears from the glare, the programming starts returning to normal gradually.

So, over the next few days, anytime between 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. you might see this happening. Do not be alarmed. It just means that Spring is arriving in Glasgow!


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