Telecommunication glitches – sun flares may be to blame

2011-08-20 16:55

Having a problem with your internet or cellphone connection? You may have to blame a higher power – the sun.

Experts say solar flares could take the rap for slow internet, ­signal reception, long distance communication, GPS issues and power supply.

Solar flares are flames that shoot out from the sun and cause disruptions to the earth’s telecommunications and electronic devices.

Scientists believe solar flares are at their most active because the sun is approaching the peak of its 11-year cycle – a time when we can expect increased ­solar activity.

Space weather officer Kobus Olckers at the SA National Space Agency (Sansa) says the “X-class or X-rated flare observed on Tuesday, August 9, was very serious, but the chances of the flares shooting at planet Earth are very minimal; ­instead they shoot off to somewhere else in space”.

He says the flares caused interruptions mainly in long-distance communication globally (for example, South Africa to Somalia), and scheduled aircraft take-offs had to be cancelled ­because it affected compasses.

We should prepare ourselves for more of these for the next four years, Olckers says, and the public should heed any warnings issued by Sansa via the media.

Nasa in the US says it graphically recorded the largest solar flare in five years on August 9.

Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman says that to their ­knowledge “solar flares haven’t resulted in any kind of a major outage.

If it did, all the satnav (navigation) systems in cars and on phones would also stop working. So it would be a major event.

“Theoretically there would just be a temporary outage.”

MTN and GPS device-maker Tom Tom confirmed that their service was also not affected by last week’s flare.

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