Wednesday, August 5, 2009

WA1ZMS...the 2m trans-Atlantic beacon???

This item appeared on the IRTS news last Sunday...

Will this be the year? The 2m WA1ZMS trans-Atlantic beacon The WA1ZMS beacon on 144.285000 MHz is now running a 500 watt transmitter giving 7 kW ERP The beacon is GPS locked and the antenna comprises two 5-element stacked yagis beaming at 60 degrees from IARU locator FM07fm.

I'm sure most people accepted it at face value and assummed that it was a beacon on the Eastern side of the Atlantic beaming accross (60 deg) on 144 MHz to Europe.

However, when you look at the location of it, some serious issues arise...
The distance between the nearest point in Europe (Ireland) and the nearest point in North America (Newfoundland) is generally considered to be around 3,000 kms. The WA1ZMS beacon is in locator square FM07fm which is in the state of Virginia, some 5,480 kms from Ireland. In fact, it's so far away that it's one Sporadic-E hop from Newfoundland alone. To put that into a European context, it's the same as putting a trans-Atlantic beacon in Romania (YO) and asking someone in Newfoundland to listen for it!

Now, I'm sure that it's an excellent beacon and it is very valuable fas a propogation indicator along the Eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada. And I guess, there is always the possibility that it might bridge the gap accross to the Azores (72 deg...12 deg off beam heading of 60 deg)....especially when the Azore High Pressure system moves around when it expands in the Summer/Autumn month. Even at that though, the distance is still about 4,500 kms.

To suggest that it might make it all of the way accross to Europe proper would take a big leap of faith.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Long distance Sporadic-E on 144 MHz...

This is something I meant to post a while back but never got around to it unil now.

Back on the 3rd of July, there was some excellent Sporadic-E propogation over Europe with some very impressive distances. One of those contacts was between Tom, EI4DQ (IO51wu) and SV9CVY (KM25ka) on the island of Crete, a distance of about 3,213 kms. Anyone that knows about Sporadic-E will know that the usual maximum distance for 1 hop is around 2,300 kms so the above distance is unusual. (On the map above, 2300 kms would be roughly from EI4DQ to roughly the heel of Italy).

Now, there are probably 3 possible explanations for this type of contact...
1) Double hop Sporadic-E as shown above...using clouds #2 and #3
2) Chordal hop where the Sporadic-E clouds may be slightly tilted and the signal goes from cloud to cloud rather than bouncing off the ground in the middle.......i.e. the signal goes directly from cloud #2 to cloud #3.
3) There was an extension at either end or both ends due to tropospheric propogation.

Considering that the MUF does not reach as high as 144 MHz that often, it's remarkable that it should happen in 2 spots at once. Hence, that's why these type of contacts are pretty rare.

Now for a bit of fun ;o)......what happens if we take that 3,213 km contact and plot it from EI4DQ's location in the opposite direction...
In fact, if EI4DQ managed to get a signal to travel that far to the west, it would end up in Newfoundland! To date, no-one has managed to make a contact accross the Atlantic on 144 MHz and it remains the 'holy grail' of VHF propogation. In fact, the IRTS have a special trophy called the Brendan Trophies for the first 2 stations to achieve this special contact.

Now, there's a big difference between the path from EI to SV9 compared to the path from EI to VO (Newfoundland). For one thing, EI to VO is a lot further North and Newfoundland is a lot closer to the magnetic North pole, all factors which seem to reduce the chances of there being suitable Sporadic-E.

It does however raise the question of whether it is possible? Europe to North America direct on 144 MHz.......can it be done???

Saturday, August 1, 2009

WSPR after 3 weeks...

I have been listening on the low power weak signal mode WSPR for about 3 weeks now. For a lot of that time, I have left the receiver on overnight on 30 metres to see what signals I could hear.

A typical morning might show plenty of signals logged from Europe and the East coast of the USA. But there's nearly always one or two signals from the West coast that I have heard and more often than not, I am the only one or one of a few in Europe to have heard their signal. An typical example looks like the one above from K7LG in southern California. As you can see, I am the only European station that heard him that night/morning.

Looking at the great circle path, it becomes obvious that Ireland and Britain are closer than most of the mainland Europe for propogation to the west coast of the USA. As well as 30m, I have seen the same results on 40m and I presume it is the same for 20m.

So, if you are an EI/GI/GM station and are on the air after midnight or in the early hours of the morning, have a listen for those west coast stations.

Monday, July 27, 2009

AMSAT-UK announce a new satellite project...FUNcube

I came accross this a few days ago. It looks like an interesting satellite with a linear transponder as well (2m/70cms). Here are some details...

"AMSAT-UK has announced a new amateur satellite project – FUNcube – that features a 435 to 145 MHz Linear Transponder for SSB/CW operation.
FUNcube is an educational single cubesat project with the goal of enthusing and educating young people about radio, space, physics and electronics.

The target audience consists of primary and secondary school pupils and FUNcube will feature a 145 MHz telemetry beacon that will provide a strong signal for the pupils to receive.

It is planned to develop a simple receiver board that can be connected to the USB port of a laptop to display telemetry in an interesting way.

The satellite will contain a materials science experiment, from which the school students can receive telemetry data which they can compare to the results they obtained from similar reference experiments in the classroom.

FUNcube is the first cubesat designed to benefit this group and is expected to be the first UK cubesat to reach space.

It is anticipated FUNcube will be launched into a Sun Synchronous Low Earth Orbit about 600-700km above the earth using one of the many launch opportunities that exist for Cubesat missions. In such an orbit the satellite passes over Europe approximately 3 times in the morning, and 3 in the evening, every day, perhaps allowing the morning passes to be used for educational purposes and the evening passes for Amateur Radio communications.

FUNcube will carry a UHF to VHF linear transponder that will have up to 1 watt and which can be used by Radio Amateurs worldwide for SSB and CW communications.
Measuring just 10 * 10 * 10 cm, and with a mass of less than 1kg, it will be the smallest ever satellite to carry a linear transponder and the choice of frequencies will enable Radio Amateurs to use their existing VO-52 or DO-64 station.

A key feature of the satellite is the absence of an On-Board Computer. For reliability and maximum power efficiency, the design has been kept as straight-forward as possible with satellite control being achieved using simple commands. "

Sunday, July 19, 2009

ZL on WSPR on 30 Metres...

Left the rig on overnight on the 18th/19th of July. One of the ususual signals this time was ZL2FT in New Zealand.

Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az
2009-07-19 06:34 ZL2FT 10.140222 -22 0 RF70mb 5 EI7GL IO51tu 18664 10
2009-07-19 06:26 ZL2FT 10.140223 -22 0 RF70mb 5 EI7GL IO51tu 18664 10
2009-07-19 06:16 ZL2FT 10.140223 -21 0 RF70mb 5 EI7GL IO51tu 18664 10
2009-07-19 06:12 ZL2FT 10.140224 -22 0 RF70mb 5 EI7GL IO51tu 18664 10

Looking at the map on the WSPR website, I was the only European station to hear him that morning. Why??
I assume it was a short-path signal over the artic? If so, my take-off in that direction is excellent with the ground to the north here falling away rapidly. Is that the reason? Is it just because I am in the North-West of Europe? Combination of both?

I'm just suprised that I should be the only one in Europe to hear the ZL station when my horizontal antenna is only 4-5 metres above ground, hardly a 'DX' set-up.

18th July...another opening on 50 MHz

18th July......The summer Sporadic-E season seems to be on the wane a bit with more days on 50 MHz with no openings. The 18th of July was an exception as the band seemed to be open to somewhere most of the day with brief surges in activity.

I worked 20 stations in 15 locator squares over 4 seperate activity periods. Much of the activity seemed to be from Scandanavia and I even managed to pick up 2 new locator squares up there....something that is unusual considering that I have been on 50 MHz for about 18 years ;o)

The most unusual contact was when W3UR in Maryland called me! I had to ask him to repeat his call as I was sure I had made a mistake...but no, it was W3UR in FM19. It's kind of funny to think that W3UR would end up calling someone in Europe on 50 MHz with home made 2 element wire beam in the attic of their house pointing the wrong direction!

It makes me wonder what could I work if I had an antenna for 50 MHz outdoors?? Maybe next year...

Friday, July 17, 2009

WSPR...40m Activity Period - 15th July 2009

The majority of stations using WSPR seem to mainly use 30 metres. In an attempt to encourage more use of other bands, special activity days are organised every week. For this one, I opted to listen on 40 metres and left the rig on receive from early on the 15th to around 08:00 on the 16th.
Using my very low doublet antenna (~5m agl), several European stations running around 1 to 5 watts were heard, nothing special. One notable exception was DL6NL who was running only 50 mW and was heard for the whole day, even at local noon which is probably a sign that the MUF was pretty low.
The following DX was logged...
VE3ODZ (5w)
WB4KLJ (2w)
KE7A (5w) in Texas...consistent signal for ~4-5 hours both mornings.
PY8ELO (20w)
VK6POP (10w)...heard several times on the evening of the 15th. First heard 16:00...several hours before local sunset & several hours before sunrise in VK.
KE0CO (5w) & W7RDP (5w) in Washington state in the NW USA.
2009-07-16 04:34 KE0CO 7.040085 -26 0 CN87tl 5 EI7GL IO51tu 7317 kms
2009-07-16 04:56 W7RDP 7.040073 -23 0 CN87xo 5 EI7GL IO51tu 7291
2009-07-16 04:34 W7RDP 7.040073 -22 0 CN87xo 5 EI7GL IO51tu 7291

Both stations (3 spots in total) were only heard at my local sunrise which was at 04:33. I was suprised to see that I was the only station in Europe to hear them that morning!

The following morning I noticed something similiar on 30 metres where only 2 European stations heard AC7SM in Las Vegas, Nebraska running 5 watts. GM4YJB had one spot at 03:30 and these were my spots...
2009-07-17 05:26 AC7SM 10.140218 -27 0 DM26ie 5 EI7GL IO51tu 7937 39
2009-07-17 03:22 AC7SM 10.140219 -27 0 DM26ie 5 EI7GL IO51tu 7937 39
2009-07-17 03:12 AC7SM 10.140219 -30 0 DM26ie 5 EI7GL IO51tu 7937 39

This time, the 'sunrise' effect was not so obvious....perhaps it is more pronounced on the lower bands like 40 & 80m?

I would have thought that other European stations with better antenna systems would have heard these US stations as well? These initial results would suggest that location is just as important. I must check again on another few mornings to see if something similiar happens again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Listening on WSPR...

I spent the weekend trying out WSPR......'Weak Signal Propogation Reporter'. It's a new type of mode which was only developed in April 2008 and allows users to detect very weak signals with the soundcard on their PC's. I saw this mentioned on the Soldersmoke Blog recently so I downloaded the software.

It basically works as follows.....
1) You tune to a specific frequency on each band. On 30 metres, the most popular band for these kind of signals, you set your rig to 10.138700 MHz on USB.
2) The software listens to the received audio from 1.4 to 1.6 khz. This equates to 10.140100 to 10.140200, a 200 Hz wide section of spectrum.
3) For a basic receive set-up, just put the microphone from your PC next to the loudspeaker of your rig and run the software.

There are a few issues that still need to be resolved. You need to set the time on your PC so that it is accurate to within 1 sec. You also need to find out where 10.138700 MHz is! You can't assume that your rig is accurate. I found that on my rig, I had to set it to 10.138778 MHz.

There is a nice short explanation of WSPR on the G4ILO website.

The main website for WSPR reports is WSPR Net which lists all the WSPR spots and can also display them on a map.
The picture above is a screenshot of the WSPR screen. The horizontal waterfall displayat the top shows the signals heard in the 200 Hz band split up into 1 minute segments. In the data section below it, the 2nd column is how far below the noise floor the signal is. The last 3 columns on the right are callsigns heard, their locator square and their power in dBm (20 dBm=0.1 watts, 27dBm=0.5w, 30dBm=1w, 33dBm=2w, 37dBm=5w, 40dBm=10w).
Most stations seem to be running around 1 to 5 watts and over the space of a day, I was hearing signals from both sides of the Atlantic. The activity level seems a little low so perhaps it is still a mode that is only growing? Still, I was suprised at what was heard with the WSPR software digging out signals buried in the noise. Here is a map of what was heard in 30 minutes on a Sunday afternoon in July. Note that the antenna in use was a low doublet antenna only about 4-5 metres above ground level.

As a mode, WSPR has a lot of potential. Some of the advantages might be....
1) You can automatically see if various propogation paths are open although a lack of global receiving stations might make this difficult?
2) Within minutes of sending out a signal, you can see what type of signal you have at various receiving stations.
3) By using very low power, you should be able to see roughly how you are getting out. Then if you make any major antenna changes, you should be able to get instant feedback on your signal strenght?

For anyone interested in very low power operation, this mode has obvious attractions. I tried messing about with QRSS (slow speed CW.....a dot = 3 seconds!) and I found it difficult to find let alone read the signals. WSPR seems to have a lot more potential.
I can feel myself at the edge of a slippery slope with this one ;o)

Friday, July 10, 2009

6th July 2009...Sp-E opening into Europe

There was a nice opening on 50 MHz into Europe on the 6th of July. I worked 29 stations in 23 grid/locator squares. It's only when I plotted out the various squares that I noticed the usual oval shaped footprint which is pretty common with Sporadic-E. Most contacts were in the 1200 to 2000 km range.
Two contacts stood out....
1) YO7LCB in KN15OA at 2428 kms. Almost certainly not single hop. Probably double hop or chordal hop Sporadic-E.
2) UT5PI in KN77OM at 3123 kms. Double hop.

Working double hop on 50 MHz is pretty common but it's still nice to do it, especially with an indoor 2 element beam in the attic made from scrap pieces of TV coax ;o)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

HF antenna repaired...

Repaired the HF Doublet antenna today. It had been down for months after getting damaged in the spring gales last March. It's currently only about 3 to 5 metres above ground level but it's better than nothing.

With the 10 metre vertical and the 2 element for 6 metres in the attic, I can now operate and listen on all bands from 3.5 MHz to 50 MHz (80 metres to 6 metres).

26th June 2009...Big opening to NA on 6m

Big opening on the 26th of June to North America and the Caribbean. Needless to say, with a 2 element beam in the attic pointing east, signals were incredibly weak here.

Opening 26th June 2009...Yellow tracks (50 MHz), Blue tracks (28 MHz)

To put it into context....
1) My take off to the west isn't great so height above local ground has a big impact. With the antenna in the attic, local houses are also in the way.
2) The 2 element has a front to back ratio of about 10-12 dB so signals coming from the west were getting attenuated a lot.
3) The antenna is indoors.....a loss of probably another few dB.

Taken all together, the losses are probably around 15dB when compared to say a 2 element outdoors at the same height pointing west. (15dB is the difference between someone running 5 watts and 150 watts).

In the early part of the evening, I could really hear very little....only German stations from the east via 1 hop Sporadic-E beaming this way towards North America. Eventually, signals improved slightly and I could just about hear FM5AA (2/1) and V29JKV (319). From North America, some of the stations that I heard were VE1YX (4/1), K1TOL (519), N9XG (519) and K4PI (529) among some others. Just to prove the point that the beam has a reasonable front to back, I could hear G and GW stations on tropo from the east (~300 kms) and were much stronger all evening.

Highlight of the day however was the one and only contact I managed to make! I called KY5R in EM64 who was just above the noise level and somehow he managed to hear my 50 watts on cw. Alabama from Ireland on 6 metres with an antenna in the attic pointing the wrong direction.....amazing.

Here is a selection of EI related dx spots from the night...

EI7IX 50208.0 K9UHF en53io53 tnx 0038 27 Jun United States
W1DYJ 50140.0 EI7IX FN42IO53 0013 27 Jun Ireland
N3CR 50140.0 EI7IX 0000 27 Jun Ireland
N5DG-@ 50095.0 EI1IP 2354 26 Jun Ireland
N4GN 50095.0 EI2IP IO61 2354 26 Jun Ireland
N1BAA 50140.0 EI7IX IO53 > FM16 2353 26 Jun Ireland
W3ATO 50140.0 EI7IX FN20IO53 2343 26 Jun Ireland
K8YTO 50095.2 EI2IP IO61<>EN82 2342 26 Jun Ireland
VE3DO-@ 50140.0 EI7IX IO53>EN94 huge e/c pileup 2337 26 Jun Ireland
N2CG 50140.0 EI7IX IO53 59 into NNJ FN20wv 2332 26 Jun Ireland
VA3XJ 50140.0 EI7IX EN82MHIO53 loud in en82 2320 26 Jun Ireland
K1DAT 50051.8 EI0SIX/B 549 >FN42 2248 26 Jun Ireland
EI9FVB 50167.5 KB8U EN71sw, Washtenaw cty MI 2236 26 Jun United States
EI9JF 50089.9 K4BI Jim EM74 2221 26 Jun United States
EI9FVB 50178.1 WD5K EM12nr, Dallas cty TX 2211 26 Jun United States
VE3EN 50150.0 EI0CL tnx ! 2205 26 Jun Ireland
EI9FVB 50208.4 KB8U EN71sw, Washtenaw cty MI 2202 26 Jun United States
EI7GL-@ 50005.3 K1TOL FN44IO51 the bcn sectio 2202 26 Jun United States
EI9FVB 50150.0 EI9FVB Clg cq dx NA 2155 26 Jun Ireland
EI9FVB 50187.7 K8MD EN82bq, Livingston cty MI 2152 26 Jun United States
EI9FVB 50200.0 N8CJK EN84gg, Iosco cty MI 2148 26 Jun United States
EI9FVB 50128.4 WC2K Clg you here 2125 26 Jun United States
VO1KVT 50167.0 EI3GYB IO53<>GN29LF 2123 26 Jun Ireland
EI9JF 50081.0 AA1ON 579 2122 26 Jun United States
K4YMQ 50146.0 EI2JD EM63IO63 2111 26 Jun Ireland
NZ3M 50205.0 EI4EY 2111 26 Jun Ireland
W5THT 50215.0 EI4EY 2109 26 Jun Ireland
W2YR 50147.0 EI2JD 2105 26 Jun Ireland
W2YR 50205.0 EI4EY 2102 26 Jun Ireland
VE1SKY 50205.0 EI4EY FN74<>IO52 2046 26 Jun Ireland
IK4IDF 50147.0 EI2JD 2031 26 Jun Ireland
EI2IP 50110.0 WP4G cq cw 2008 26 Jun Puerto Rico
EI2IP 50122.0 8R1DB cq still here 2007 26 Jun Guyana
W4UDH-@ 50185.0 EI4EY 55 in EM52 2000 26 Jun Ireland
FM5AA 50120.0 EI9FVB FK94>
EI9FVB 50120.0 FM5AA FK94IO51QV 1957 26 Jun Martinique
EI7GL-@ 50045.4 OX3VHF/B GP60qqIO51 2510 kms 1952 26 Jun Greenland
EI7IX 50045.0 OX3VHF/B 599 over 1 hour 1944 26 Jun Greenland
EI7IX 50104.0 V29JKV fk97io53 up .5kc 1939 26 Jun Antigua & Ba
EI7IX 50104.0 V29JKV cq 539 1913 26 Jun Antigua & Ba
EI2IP 50117.0 TZ6EI Still in most evening 1843 26 Jun Mali
EI7IX 50175.0 WB4SLM em82io53 tnx 1842 26 Jun

Friday, June 26, 2009

New Prediction for Sunspot Cycle 24...

Reading through some recent e-mails, I came accross this...

NASA Releases New Predictions for Solar Cycle 24......An international panel of experts -- led by the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA) and sponsored by NASA -- has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle: Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots. "If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78,". This report clarifies a NOAA report from earlier this month that stated that Solar Cycle 24 would bring "90 sunspots per day on average."

Looking at the date, they are predicting the peak to be between 80 and 100 sunspots per month at the peak. So what does this mean? Let's compare it to previous cycles...

It looks as if it will be similiar but slightly lower than the peak of 1968/9 but worse than the last 3 peaks. What does this mean in practical terms?

In reality, near the sunspot maximum, the HF bands (14 MHz to 28 MHz) will be hopping and there will be worldwide dx regardless of how bad it turns out to be. The big issue is what will propogation on 50 MHz be like?

I remember reading before that the peak of 1968 was supposed to be pretty poor for DX on 6 metres with slim pickings via F2. If it turns out as predicted, I'd expect that there will be plenty of F2 type openings North-South from say Europe to Africa and South America. The big problem is will the MUF get high enough to support East-West type openings from say Europe to North America?....or Europe to the Far East? Stations in Southern Europe will probably work loads (EA/CT/I/etc) but what about those above 50 deg North?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sporadic-E on 144 MHz...

Saturday, 20th June........In the evening, I noticed that stations in the UK (G/GW) were working EA/CT on 144 MHz on the Dx-cluster. Having no antenna for the band, I sent Alan EI3EBB a text to notify him and went back to 50 MHz.

Not long afterwards, I noticed that EI stations were now working CT/EA on 2m so I decided to have a listen....

I wired up my old Yaesu FT290R.....pulled out the telescopic whip on the front of it......held it up in the air with one hand......while tuning around with the other ;o)

Heard EI3EBB about 5/9 working CT2GUR and what was amazing was that I could hear CT2GUR!!

Got the microphone and plugged it in........called the CT2 station........'Who is EI7 station?'

Called him again..........he got my full call this time and gave me a 5/2 signal report.

CT2 from EI on 144 MHz using 2.5 watts into a telescopic whip on a rig that was indoors! If I had the rig next to a window with a good view to the south then I'd say it was fair enough. But it wasn't! To the south was a concrete wall about 1 metre away and the view out the window is to the west. Imagine what my signal would have been like with any type of outdoor antenna!

Amazing conditions. It must be one of the strangest contacts that I ever had on 144 MHz.

Postscript.......Message from Paulo....
Hi  John...I've been watching your blog and noticed in our fabulous contact at 144, that since their conditions FT290 2.5W with whip antenna! Spathe! I register it at the time the contact but I never thought that their conditions were such, my setup at the time 2x17el in. H +800 W + LNA

My new 144 setup: 4x12LFA+1.6K+LNA

Thank you for the wonderful contact...maybe in a next listen sporadic!

73´s de Paulo, CT2GUR

Sunday, June 21, 2009

IT9X/b....the musical beacon

Since I put the 2 element up in the attic, I noticed that sometimes I would hear a series of almost musical tones on 50.057 MHz when the band was open. At first, I thought perhaps it was some commercial /military signal coming from North Africa but over the last few days, it got strong enough to get a positive ID.

Listening from Ireland, there are 2 beacons usually on 50.057 MHz........IQ4AD in JN54 in North Italy which is usually the strongest and IT9X in JM78 near Messina in Italy. From here, IT9X is almost at the maximum possible distance for single hop Sporadic-E. Even when it is almost impossible to read the morse ID, the alternating tones can be heard quite clearly.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

June 19th & 20th...More openings on 50 MHz

The Sporadic-E season is in full swing at the moment with plenty of European signals on the band. I have been using the home brew 2 element yagi in the attic now for about 2 weeks and I'm getting a better idea of what the performance is like.

Signals.........It's certainly not up to the performance of my old 4 element outdoors up at 9 mtrs above ground level but that's to be expected. For such a simple antenna, I'm hearing a lot of signals and it was certainly worthwhile constructing it and fitting it in the attic. In the event that I put up a better outdoor antenna, I think I'll leave the indoor 2 element in place as a back-up.

DX........there were several openings to the west towards the Carribbean. With a fixed beam pointing east, anything from the west was going to get attenuated by about 10 dB anyway so maybe it was no suprise that I heard nothing. I can't say that I'm too bothered anyway because at the moment, my interest in 'chasing' dx on 6 metres is pretty low.

Fri 19th & Sat 20th June 2009..........I was on for both days and there were good openings into Europe.

On the 19th, I caught an opening in the early afternoon working 28 stations in 21 squares. Most were pretty normal contacts. The one exception was YU1ACR in KN13 square at 2430 kms which is around the maximum distance possible for one hop Sp-E.
On the 20th, 50 MHz was open more or less all day. I was on air before the contest started and worked 21 stations in 17 squares. Note the footprint of the contacts....oval shaped with the north-south part narrow and the east-west section stretched. This is a typical footprint for a Sporadic-E opening.

Over the 2 days, I operated on cw all of the time. While the qso rate was slower, I was able to work stations that were pretty weak and there were several that I would have not worked if it had been on ssb. When you are using a decent antenna with 50-100 watts, ssb is fine. However, when you have to compromise (i.e. indoor antenna ;o) then cw comes into it's own.

Later in the evening, the band was wide open and full of EU stations working in the contest. It was obvious it was open to the Carribbean as well but as before, nothing was heard here off the back of the beam.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Back on 50 MHz again...

Things have been pretty quiet on the radio front recently....mainly due to a lack of interest on my part as much as anything else.

With the start of the Summer Sporadic-E season in May, I found myself listening more and more on 50 MHz but the aerial left a lot to be desired. A 145 MHz 5/8 wave magmount which acts like a loaded quarter wave on 50 MHz might be fine in an emergency but the performance is awful.

I tried tuning the HF doublet and while it was better than the magmount, it was only fair.

At this stage in the season, I decided to put up something fast in the attic and leave the outdoor work to later. My antenna of choice was a 2 element yagi, much the same as my first antenna on 50 MHz way back in 1991.

My choice was based on the following...
a) A modest bit of gain (~4dbd) with a Front to Back ratio of about 10-12 dB.
b) At the apex of the roof, it would be approx 8 metres above ground level.
c) Wide beamwidth....point it east towards Europe and forget about the west.
d) Feed point impedance close to 50 ohms so it is simple to feed with no complex matching arrangement required.
e) Permanent installation. This for me was probably the main consideration. As an indoor antenna, it is protected from the elements and the coax and elements will never corrode or break.

While an external antenna would be a better choice in terms of lower loss and less noise, at least the attic 2 element will always be there to fall back on if needs be.

It got it's first airing on the 11th of June and despite the fact that it is indoors, it seemed to perform fine. Over the space of 3 hours, I worked 54 stations in 45 locator squares. Of particular note were some of the contacts with stations in OH (Finland) at around 2,000 kms. They were probably coming in at a low angle so the 2 element may not be so bad after all.

Putting the contacts into VQLog revealed one contact was a new square for me...JP53. Other interesting contacts were with DF2UU and OH1LEU. According to VQLog, I first worked them back in 1991, a mere 18 years ago!

Also worked was DL5SBA who I worked on 10m back in 1988, a full 21 years ago!

It seems strange how out of 54 contacts, I should work stations that I had my first contact with around 20 years ago.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sorting out those QSL cards...

Things have been pretty quiet here on the radio front. The spring gales took their toll and my HF doublet is down at present although it won't take much to get it going again. Otherwise, I have been sorting out my QSL cards. I tried before to sort them out by band but it was just way too awkward. So, I have sorted them out now by country and they're all now neatly filed away. Once thing that became apparent however is the number of German QSL cards. Germany has a large amateur radio population and the distance from Ireland to Germany is almost optimum for Sporadic-E contacts on 10m, 6m and 2m....hence the large number of cards.

I'm not exactly sure how many are in there but there is a 1 Euro coin at the bottom for scale.

I think it's safe to say that I have Germany confirmed by QSL at this stage ;o)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saker Falcon missing...IRTS News

Just came accross this on the IRTS news.......
Missing Saker Falcon. A request has been made by a member of the Public, to try to find a missing Saker Falcon. The Saker Falcon recently went missing in the Dublin area of Inchicore / Ballyfermot. It has been suggested that if anyone can monitor 216.10MHz FM to try to pick up her signal, which is a constant beep to contact Gerard at 086 3640975
What's strange about this......other than the fact it's about a missing that 216.1 MHz is right in the middle of Band III TV in Ireland.
A little more digging suggests that the collar may have come from the USA where that frequency seems to be used for tracking.
Channel I on Band III is at 215.25 Mhz. Now it just so happens that Network 2 is broadcast from Mt.Leinster on Ch I. So, considering that 216.1 MHz is right in with the video signals and if this bird heads for the mountains, this tracking collar (probably milliwatts) is going 'head to head' with a transmitter with an ERP of 230 Kilowatts!!

The best chance of hearing that bird is probably if it lands on someone's TV aerial and causes TVI ;o)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Special Event Station...EI100CQD

I came accross this video clip on the net. EI100CQD was a special event station that was operational over the weekend of the 23rd to 25th of January 2009. I heard them mentioned on the IRTS news but the station didn't seem to be operational on 80 metres so it was very difficult for any EI stations to hear them.

The video clip shows Tony, EI5EM operating the station EI100CQD and having a contact with Jarda, OK5JM in the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

mmmm......a 3 el yagi for 160m

With no antenna for 160m, I had to give the CQWW 160m CW contest a miss last weekend. However, I came accross this gem on the net..........OH8X and their 3 element yagi for 1.8 MHz.

Not only are they using a 3 element on 160m but they have a 5 element yagi for 80 metres above it!!
All of this on a 100 metre high tower....

.........and my favourite....
.......a rail inside the boom for walking on! 100 metres above ground level!.........any volunteers??
More info at this LINK.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Up and Running on Logbook of The World

Quick recap.......
1) I had updated my VQLog program so that it now contains just over 23,000 contacts. From this, I could generate an ADIF file that Logbook of The World could use.
2) In mid January, I had tried to use to use the LoTW software but I had problems with passwords at the final step when I was trying to 'sign' the ADIF file and generate a TQ8 file for upload.
3) I looked on the LoTW website but could see no obvious answer. So, I sent the ARRL an e-mail with my private e-mail account (gofree) asking for advice.
1) After 2 weeks I had no reply to my e-mail. Someone else had also said that they had not received a mail I sent with my private e-mail account. So, I resent the mail to the ARRL on Fri 23rd Jan using my Yahoo mail account.
2) Within 2 hours, I had a reply! The advice was...
Delete any and all TQ5, TQ6 and TQ8 files in your folders.
Delete any lines with a callsign.
Request a new UNSIGNED certificate for your call EI7GL. Do not use an end date and do not use a password.
Upload the resulting TQ5 to LoTW. Disregard any messages about overlapping certificates or dates.
Stand by for your TQ6.
3) So, I deleted the TQ5 and TQ6 files that had been generated. Ran TQSL CERT again, generated a new TQ5 file (with no password this time!) and uploaded this to the LoTW website. As I had been approved already, I assumed that I would have a reply in a few days.
4) Within a few hours, I had received the TQ6 file back from the ARRL!! I ran this, unlocked my certificate and then proceeded to sign my ADIF file.
5) This time, it went past the stage where I had got stuck before with the password and it began the slow process of generating a TQ8 file from the 23,000+ qsos in the ADIF file.
6) I got a lot of errors, especially with all of the Satellite contacts that I had. It didn't seem to like the format that VQLog was using for Satellite qsos. In fact, as far as I can see, it rejected all of them. Besides the Satellite contacts, it rejected 2 other contacts.....
EA1DDU.....due to "Invalid PROP_MODE (TRD)". VQLog gives the choice of 'Tropo ducting' as a propogation mode. It seems as if LoTW doesn't accept it. It seems strange as on the FAQ on the LoTW website, it make no mention of needing propogation modes.
GD0PLT.....due to "Invalid amateur CALL (GDOPLT)". My first thought was that I had entered the letter 'O' instead of the number zero in the callsign. But no, I had it correct. I have no idea why it was rejected.
7) Eventually the process was completed and I ended up with the required TQ8 file. I logged on to the LoTW website and uploaded the TQ8 file. At first, I got a message saying that it was pending but pretty soon as I was refreshing the page, I could see that the number of qsos were increasing as well as the matches.
8) I left it for a while and after 30 minutes, I had 22,449 uploaded contacts and 1,945 matches. That is about 8.7% . Compared to the QSL rates that others are getting (15-20%), 8.7% might seem a bit low. I would assume that because my contacts are over a span of 20 years, many of the older contacts will never appear on LoTW because the person in question may have gone off the air. The oldest match was for a contact on the 3rd Oct 1986! The newest was for the 13th Jan 2009.
9) So, a quick look at the matches.
These are the number of DXCC countries that LoTW found a match for on each band. Note that this is via LoTW only. There are no physical qsl cards / previous credits in there.
Looking through the LoTW matches and comparing them to my log, I now have these extra countries confirmed....
6m......1 new country confirmed (PJ7)
10m....3 new countries confirmed (3X, A6 and ZL)
12m....7 new countries confirmed (HL, J6, KG4, KL7, PZ, ST and XZ)
15m....12 new countries confirmed (EY,FP, GI, HK, J7, KL7, PJ2, ST, VP2E, ZC4, ZD8 and ZL)
17m....10 new countries confirmed ( 3B8, 4U1ITU, C31, EA8, PZ, ST, VK9N, VP2M, XZ and ZF)
20m....1 new country confirmed (YV)
30m....6 new countries confirmed (KL7, OY, ST, TF, XZ and ZD8)
40m....3 new countries confirmed (A6, D4 and V4)
80m....1 new country confirmed (D4)
160m..6 new countries confirmed (CT3, GD, GM, GW, LY and OE)

So, in total, that makes 50 'band' countries that I do not have to get physical qsl cards for.
Out of those, I now have 5 DXCC countries which are only confirmed by LoTW on any band (PZ, ST, XZ, J7 and VK9N)...i.e. I do not have physical QSL cards for them.

After messing about with the LoTW website for a while, I eventually found the page to link the LoTW credits with my existing credits. Again, I thought I would have to wait a few days for someone to process this request but it was done within about 1 hour.

My combined record now looks like this....
I have applied for DXCC on 40m, 10m and 6m before so the overall numbers are high for these bands. For example, what the above chart is saying for let's say 10 metres is that my current DXCC credit is 113, I have another 31 credits from LoTW and when I enable them, I will have a total of 144 DXCC on that band. This of course, does not take into account any physical qsl cards that I may have here for additional countries. For bands where I do not have DXCC, like say 20 metres, LoTW brings my DXCC credit from 14 up to 83. So, if I was to apply for a 20 metres DXCC today (100 DXCC minimum required), I would only have to submit 17 extra QSL cards rather than 86.

Overall Conclusion....By using LoTW, I have got 50 new band countries confirmed and it has reduced the need for me to submit physical QSL cards for future DXCC awards. Overall, it was well worth doing and in my opinion, it really is vital that anyone who has a serious interest in the ARRL DXCC award programme should get going on Logbook of The World as soon as possible.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Short Wave Listener QSL cards...

Having recently gone through a backlog of incoming QSL cards, I had the usual few SWL (Short Wave Listener) cards in there as well. I came accross one for which I could find no match in the log so I left it to the end.
Got to the end, re-checked VQLog and my paper sign of the station mentioned.

This is the QSL card...

........and here is the back.

Now, the card is a bit unusal. SWL's don't usually send cards for having heard 'cw' contacts. If they have spent that much time listening to and learning morse, most have gone one to get a licence and get on the air themselves.
I knew I had worked PA1SIX before but just not on that particular day.

I was I used the 'search' function on the DX-cluster.

PA1SIX 50105.0 EI7GL 559 E 1426 29 Dec

So, PA1SIX had spotted me but did not call me. Note the time, 14:26, the exact same time as what was on the qsl card. So, was this SWL just picking callsigns off the cluster and sending them qsl cards???

So I dug a bit more.......

I found this on an AMSAT forum...
Hi all , this is JH3DJX/Yuki . I received SWL card from DO2OTH . The report was the QSO via SO-50 worked with JH5DAH over Japan .How could he hear our QSO at Germany ?I send e-mail to DO2OTH , but no reply . Can anyone explain this mystery ?

Now, SO-50 is in low Earth orbit so it is impossible to hear it (70cms) in Germany when it is over Japan. Again, a quick check on the cluster suggests an answer...

JH3DJX-@ 436800.0 JH5DAH VIA SO-50 SAT (Saudisat-1C) 1211 21 Jan (2003)

There seems to be little doubt this time, DO2OTH (now DL6BT) just picked a contact off the DX-cluster and sent them a qsl card hoping that they would reply.

Q. What is the point in a SWL sending someone a QSL card for a contact they did not hear???

Monday, January 19, 2009

QSL status......19th Jan 2009

Now that VQLog is updated, I spent the last few days going through the backlog of incoming QSL cards. Out of the 200 or so cards, there were a few nice ones which confirmed a few new band countries for me. I think the one from Iraq might be the only card I have from that country. Needless to say, the vast majority were from European countries. All QSL cards have now been answered and I'll probably send them to the outgoing buro in a few weeks time.

Next step...
1) Logbook of The World. Nearly got it working but fell at the last step! I was near the end of the process and I had problems with the password that I thought I had supplied. Looks like I'll have to start again and get a new key. At least this time, it should be pretty quick.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Video clip from EI/ON5GS/P in IO55 square...

In some previous posts(here & here), I had some information about ON5GS's 144 MHz meteor scatter expedition to IO55 square in Dec 2008. I recently came accross a video clip of his on YouTube. I think the sound of the wind and the snow on the mountains say a lot about the bad weather conditions.

Irish Castles on the Air...24-25th Jan 2009

Just came accross this news item.....
Oranmore Castle activation
Members of the Galway VHF Group will be activating
Oranmore Castle from 12 mid-day on Saturday the 24th until 4 pm on Sunday the 25th of January.
Activity will be on all bands depending on conditions. The WAI locator square is M32 and the Castle number will be EI/001/C.
This will be the first activation of a castle since the launch of
CASHOTA-IRELAND. The Galway VHF Group Club callsign, EI4ALE/P, will be in operation for the duration of this event.
For further information check out their Web site at:
(Update Mon 19th Jan 09....Cancelled due to some building work)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Men's World Handball Championship Croatia 2009

On the 2nd of January, I worked 9A2009ST thinking he was just a special event station for the new year. Today (13th Jan), I heard a few more 9A2009 stations and checked them out. They are in fact special event stations for the Men's World Handball Championships and there are 7 stations, one in each city.

A special award is available to anyone working 3, 5 or all 7 stations.

Some details....
Award is available to all amateur radio and SWL stations that in the period from 1st January until 1st February 2009 establish certain number of QSOs with special stations from 7 cities in which will be held 21st World Handball Championship for men as follows: Zagreb, Varazdin, Osijek, Porec, Pula, Zadar and Split.

All modes of operation are allowed: CW, SSB, DIGITAL, MIX.

For the award it is necessary to work just one special station in each city on any band.
Special stations from before mentioned cities will operate under following call signs:
ZAGREB – 9A2009ZG, VARAZDIN – 9A2009VZ, OSIJEK – 9A2009OS, POREƈ – 9A2009PO, PULA – 9A2009PU, ZADAR – 9A2009ZD, SPLIT – 9A2009ST

More info can be found on the this website. Judging by the pile-up they had on 80m ssb this evening, it seems to be very popular.

Checking of VQLog finished...

I started the long and arduous process of checking my logging program, VQLog against my paper logs back in mid-November 2008. Now 2 months and 23,039 qso's later, I'm finished at last!! At the beginning, it was really slow as I had to enter a lot of old contacts that I had never entered into my old Fastlog logging program. Originally, I had feared the whole process would take about 6 months but in the end, it took 'only' 2. With the exception of a small number of repeater and crossband contacts, I literally put everything into the logging program....towns, counties, Worked All Ireland squares, Worked All Britain squares, US states and so on. From the rare DX contacts to the local contacts accross town on 70 cms. Lots of data that can be used and searched.

And of course, lots of graphs! Here is a breakdown of all my contacts per band.

Some observations....
1) I found perhaps 20 mistakes where I had originally put the incorrect callsign into Fastlog. 20 out of 20,000 is only about 0.1% . Perhaps I missed a few more? but the logging program is now a lot more accurate. One typo was for R1FJL. I had entered the wrong suffix and VQLog recognised it as Russia. Corrected the call and I got one extra band country on 20m. I had entered the wrong date on several contacts....not much use if they end up getting used on Logbook of the World which looks for a date and time match.

2) When I imported all of the 20k or so contacts from Fastlog into VQLog, it did not always recognise the country correctly. An example was the prefix TO which was used in Martinique and Guadeloupe. VQLog had thought they were just French stations. Correcting these gave a few more band countries. Another more obvious one was for GB stations. These are used all over the UK. VQLog presumed that they were all in England but in a lot of cases, they were not. Lesson.....if you are importing data from one logbook into another...(or even data generated by a contest logging program) have to check the unusual prefixes to make sure that they are recognised properly. I'm sure that holds true for any logging program.

Next step.....
1) LoTW....I received the password from the ARRL back on the 5th of January. I now have to figure how to use this Logbook of The World. Uploading 23,000 qso's should get me a 'few' matches ;o)
2) QSL's.....I have several hundred cards that need to be checked. I had a quick look already at these and there are some nice DX ones in there. As well as updating VQLog, I will also need to reply to a lot of those cards. Hopefully, I'll be sending off a batch of qsl cards to the outgoing buro at the end of February .

Saturday, January 10, 2009

E44M not in the log...

I didn't have much luck trying to work these guys in Palestine. It seemed as if most of Europe were calling them.....too many for a low horizontal antenna and 100 watts to get through on the low bands (3.5 to 18 MHz).
Here is a video clip I found. Seems as if they were getting a lot of interference from the lifts in the building they were in.....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 clip from 1997

A few weeks back, I had a post about the 2007 Scarborough Reef expedition. I came accross a video clip about the 1997 expedition on YouTube. It really shows how small these rocks are.

Recent events...

31st Dec 2008.......Back on HF....
Spent the day repairing my old Doublet antenna. 3 years of neglect (.......and running over the feedline with the lawnmower ;o) had taken it's toll. Ran a new lenght of 300 Ohm twin lead cable from the shack to the feed point of the antenna. Replaced 2 other lenghts of cable. Left the antenna that evening at a mere 1.5 metres above ground level and even at that height, I managed to work DL7VPE/P near Berlin on 80m cw. Raised the antenna the next day so that now, it is roughly 5 metres above ground level. Still a bit low but enough for the moment so that I can use 3.5 MHz to 18 MHz. Even at this height, it seemed to work fine on 80m for the IRTS counties contest. Also worked OH0 and ZD8 on 30 metres over the last few days. Getting a bit more height on it should make a big difference.

3rd Jan 2009.....Quadrantids Meteor Shower...
I was on for this one. Plenty of pings and bursts. I must put up a seperate post about it soon.

5th Jan 2009...ARRL Logbook Of The World...
I had posted the documentation back on the 22nd of December to the ARRL. Received my password by e-mail from the ARRL on the 5th of Jan. A wait of only 2 weeks. I hope to be up and running on LOTW by the end of January :o)

6th Jan 2009...EI 6 Metre activity evening...
I had a listen around 21:00 and heard nothing. From what I hear from e-mail correspondance, it would seem that this activity evening is no longer supported. Seem's a pity.

Friday, January 2, 2009

IRTS 80 Metres Counties Contest...1st Jan 2009

This was my first time trying out this contest as I had been off the air for the first 3 (2006-2008). I repaired my HF doublet antenna on the 31st of Dec so that I would be ready for the contest on the 1st. I had no real intention in taking part in the contest as such, more just to get on and give away a few points.
My contest...
The contest started at 14:00 and lasted until 17:00.
14:00 to 15:00...I spent the first hour on CW calling CQ Test, worked 19 stations and gave away a few points.
15:00....Time for coffee!! ;o) I spent about 15 minutes listening around. Going from CW to SSB was like changing to a completely different band. On CW, there was hardly any contest activity at this stage. Just some G and European staions in qso mode. On SSB, the contest segment was hopping and all of the EI stations seemed very busy.
15:15 to 16:00....Back on CW calling CQ Test. Worked just 6 stations in 45 minutes with most of my CQ calls going unanswered. By 16:00, the CW part of the contest was well and truely over.
16:00....More coffee!! This CW is thirsty work ;o) The SSB section was still hopping at this stage. I was half thinking about calling it a day but seeing as how busy the band was, I decided to give away a few more points. Time to get the microphone out of the drawer ;o)
16:15 to 16:48...Tuned up and down the SSB part of the band giving away a few points.
16:48 to 17:00...Found a clear frequency and called CQ Contest so that anyone tuning around the band would find me. Worked about 16 stations in the last 12 minutes.

Totals......61 contacts, 25 on CW and 36 on SSB. 18 counties worked.

Overall Impression and thoughts.....
1) An excellent contest. 3 hours is just the right lenght, 80 metres is the right band and it was great to see so many EI stations on the band.
2) Good to see that the IRTS have not introduced that 'Sprint'/ 'QSY' rule like they did for the 2 metre counties contest.
3) After the first hour, the CW section of the contest was more or less over. If anyone is going to try CW, then the first hour is the time to be on that mode.
4) It seems a pity that for those in the Mixed contest, CW contacts only have the same value as SSB. If someone was going to try and win the mixed section, there would be a case for just working 2 to 3 CW contacts and then spend the rest of the contest on SSB to maximize the points. Perhaps if CW contacts had double or triple value, it might make things more interesting. i.e. Do you stay on CW with a lower qso rate but higher value points or do you try SSB with a higher qso rate but lower value points.
5) Looking at the results for the last 3 years, these were the entries...
It will be interesting to see what the entries for 2009 will be like. Listening to the serial numbers given in the contest, I'm guessing that the SSB numbers will be up while the Mixed entries will be low again.

So overall, a good fun event. I might try and make a serious effort at it next year.