On Friday, I got an email from my cable provider telling me that, because of "sun outages" I might have a "brief interruption in TV service" over the next week.
Since I had never heard of sun outages, I went online to see whether it was a weird, fake email. But it wasn't. And everyone seemed as confused as me.
And these outages aren't limited to New York City, where I live.
Cable, phone, and radio companies all over — from Hawaii to South Carolina — are sending similar notes about sun outages. Charter Communications provided outage times for its customers from Alabama to Wyoming.
So what is a "sun outage," anyway?
Sun outages happen twice a year, according to Christi Whitworth, director of education at a North Carolina-based research and education facility called Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute.
"Essentially what's happening is the [TV] satellite is eclipsing the sun," she said.
In the mainland U.S., twice a year — in early October and early March — a satellite passes in front of the sun and throws off the signal.
Oh, and, if you have cable, you will probably be affected by it.
Whitworth said that almost everyone will have some kind of outage at some point, even if your cable company hasn't let you know about it.
"Everyone whose company uses a satellite to transmit the data of the TV signal has times of year when this would be occurring," Whitworth explained, "unless they have a satellite orbit that never crosses the sun."
You should check with your cable provider to find out when your own service might be affected.
But the outage shouldn't last long.
Satellites don't take long to cross the sun. Whitworth said that realistically, between the satellite eclipsing the sun and computers catching up with the weird blip in reception, the longest an outage should last is 15 minutes.
So, if your TV goes out for a few minutes this week, now you know why!
Annie-Rose Strasser is the managing editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Annie-Rose Strasser at email@example.com.
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