What is TV Static And Why Does It Happen?

Remember the days when turning on your television set meant encountering a flurry of random patterns and white noise before your favorite show flickered into view?

This phenomenon, known as TV static, has been a constant presence in the world of television broadcasting.

In this article, I will walk you through everything about what is actually TV static and also why it happens!

Let’s dive in…

What is Actually TV Static?

what is actually tv static
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TV static, also known as white noise, or snow, is like a bunch of random dots and pixels that show up on a TV screen when there’s no signal coming in from the antenna or cable.


It happens because of electronic noise and other random electromagnetic signals that the antenna accidentally picks up, kind of like how a radio might catch static.

These signals causing the static can come from various sources.

Some of them are everywhere in the atmosphere and include electromagnetic signals coming from space, like the cosmic microwave background radiation.

NASA says that some of the static you see on an old TV is actually gamma radiation from the Big Bang that traveled through space for billions of years.

tv static screen with bing bang microweb
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Eventually, it turns into microwave radiation.

A tiny bit of that radiation reaches Earth, passes through our atmosphere, and shows up as TV static on those older analog TVs.

Note: modern digital TVs don’t have this static anymore. They use a different technology that doesn’t rely on radio waves to send pictures and sound to the screen.

What Causes TV Static

  • Lack of Signal.
  • TV tuner.
  • Electromagnetic Interference.
  • Gamma Radiation from the Big Bang.


Here are the detailed explanations:

Reason 1: Lack of Signal

tv static happen due to lack of signal
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TV static often manifests when a TV fails to receive a stable transmission signal through its antenna or cable input.

In fact, this is usually the foremost cause behind the issue.

To put it simply, it’s akin to tuning a radio to a frequency where no radio station is currently broadcasting.

Just as you would hear a hissing or crackling sound on the radio in such a scenario, the television screen exhibits random patterns and dots when it doesn’t pick up any signal.

This occurs because the TV is essentially in search of a signal, and in its absence, it projects this visual “noise” onto the screen.

Reason 2: Gamma Radiation from the Big Bang

Gamma Radiation from the Big Bang

One of the most interesting sources of electromagnetic interference that can cause static on analog TV screens is gamma radiation from the Big Bang.

Big Bang is the name given to the event that started the universe about 13.8 billion years ago.

During this event, a huge amount of energy was released in the form of gamma radiation, which is the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation.

Over billions of years and the expansion of the universe, this gamma radiation cooled down and stretched into microwave radiation, which is much less energetic.

This microwave radiation fills the entire universe and is called cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR).

A small fraction of this radiation reaches Earth and can be detected by sensitive instruments, such as radio telescopes.

However, in the case of older analog TVs, some of this radiation can also be picked up by their antennas and appear as static on their screens.

According to some estimates,

“About 1% of the static on analog TV screens is due to CMBR.”

This means that when you watch static on an old TV, you are actually witnessing a faint echo of the origin of the universe!

Reason 3: Electromagnetic Interference

Electromagnetic Interference cause tv static

TVs are highly receptive to the presence of electromagnetic signals within their surroundings.

In practical terms, TVs can inadvertently capture electromagnetic interference emanating from nearby electronic devices, including radios, microwaves, cell phones, and computers.

These gadgets typically emit electromagnetic waves that disrupt the TV’s signal, leading to the display of static patterns on the screen.

However, it’s not just man-made sources that pose a threat.

Electromagnetic interference can also arise from natural phenomena like Lightning strikes, solar flares, and even cosmic microwave background radiation from outer space.

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