John Nelson was an engineer who worked for RCA Communications. In
1946 he was assigned the task of developing a reliable method of
predicting the onset of magnetic storms, which were playing havoc
with long-distance radio communications.
He was aware of prior research suggesting sunspots were the major
factor in radio transmission disruption and he set out to test this
hypothesis, by recording the sunspot observations he made with a five-
inch refracting telescope on the roof of the RCA building in New York
City. By 1949, his radio propagation forecasts had "attained an
accuracy of about 65 to 70 percent."
Nelson's five year study concluded that sunspots alone were not the
problem. The position of the planets also had an effect.
He had improved the accuracy of his predictions by following
correlations between planetary positions and magnetic storms. He
noted that whenever two or more planets formed a 90o or 180o angle
with the earth [ the opposition and the square, which astrologers
consider to be "challenging" aspects ], disturbances in radio
transmission always occurred; but that radio transmissions were much
improved when the planets were in the angular relationships (60o
sextiles and 120o trines) which astrologers consider to have a benign
He published a pamphlet and a series of updates in which he described
correlations between sunspots and geomagnetic activity, and between
these and the heliocentric aspects of the planets:
Nelson, J. H.: "Shortwave Radio Propagation Correlation with
Planetary Positions", RCA Review, March 1951, Vol. 12, pp. 26-34.
Nelson, J. H.: "Planetary Position Effect on Short Wave Signal
Quality," Electrical Engineering, May 1952, Vol. 71, No. 5, pp. 421-
His initial claims were summarized in a press release:
Thursday, April 12, 1951 RCA SCIENTIST REPORTS EVIDENCE OF DIRECT
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EARTH'S MAGNETIC STORMS AND PLANET POSITIONS
The method summarized in the press release follows below:
1. When two or more planets are at right angles to each other, or in
line on the same side of the sun, or in line with the sun between
them, magnetic disturbances occur more frequently on the earth's
2. The most disturbed 12 month period will be those preceding and
following the positioning of Saturn and Jupiter in such a
configuration with relation to the sun.
3. The most severe disturbances occur when Mars, Venus, Mercury and
the Earth are in critical relationship near points of the Saturn-
4. When Saturn and Jupiter have moved away from their critical
relationship, there is a corresponding decline in the severity of
magnetic weather, although storms of shorter duration result from the
critical combinations of smaller planets.
Nelson went on to present his findings in a paper, "Planetary
Position Effects on Shortwave Signal Qualities," to the 1952 AIEE
While there, he met a radio frequency engineer who noted that Nelson
omitted Uranus, Neptune and Pluto from his study. The engineer
convinced him that doing so was a mistake because other work had
shown that these planets were essential to predicting magnetic
storms. Nelson added these planets into his calculations and found
that his prediction model met with even greater success.
Nelson had left these three planets out of his research at first
because of their great distance from earth. Therefore, he was amazed
to find that, although the gravitational effects of these distant
planets upon the Sun were infinitesimal, their influence on the
formation of magnetic storms was immense.
Nelson's work on the effects of planetary positions on radio wave
propagation was published in the May 1962 Electrical Engineering
An anthology of John Nelson's technical writings is available here:
Cosmic Patterns. John Nelson. CAT#442
This book explains in great detail the methods used by Nelson in his
Table of Contents:
1.) Introduction to Sunspots, the Ionosphere, and Shortwave Radio.
2.) Early Research Period.
3.) The Search For Angles.
4.) The Search for Harmonic Refinements.