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Satellite Solar Outages – Autumnal Equinox 2016

For the general public March marks the transition from Summer to Autumn, a time when the leaves begin to fall and the days shorten but for the world of satellite communications March marks a period of biannual satellite disruptions associated with the Autumnal Equinox.

During the the 10 day period leading up to and immediately after the equinox satellite communications are disrupted for several minutes per day because the sun aligns in the same plane as communications satellites in geostationary orbit. The sun acts in satellite communication terms as a gigantic noise source that drowns out the comparatively weak signal transmitted between satellites and satellite dishes on the ground.

The Autumnal Equinox will occur on 20 March 2016. Satellite customers will begin to notice satellite signal outages from the beginning of March when satellites in the eastern sky (southern hemisphere) will experience outages in the late morning and satellites in the western sky will experience outages during the afternoon.

A reminder that customers may need to reboot their satellite receivers after the solar outage has passed to restore service.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology provides Space Weather Services including a useful calculator for calculating the exact outage times for specific locations and satellites. Please note outage times are provided in UTC.