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.