Friday, June 17, 2011

Quiet times ahead for the Sun...???

If you have been following the details of the current solar cycle then you'll know that the peak which is supposed to be coming up in 2013 will be pretty low in comparison to other previous peaks. If true then conditions on bands like 6 metres (50 MHz) won't be great...especially for East-West propagation.

Now it seems as if there are signs that the following cycle won't be great either and the sun might be entering a quieter period.

This appeared in a recent article online.........
"For one, there is an east/west river of gas the flows under the surface of the Sun (it can’t be seen directly, but it generates sound waves that travel from it to the surface, revealing its presence). This river comes and goes, but usually forms at mid-latitudes on the Sun and shifts toward the equator as the cycle progresses. As it does so, sunspots form above it. Although the next cycle won’t start for a few years, the river associated with it should already be forming. However, there are no indications it has, making astronomers think the next cycle may be delayed."

The full article can be seen HERE

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Australia on 28 MHz this morning...

This one was a bit of a suprise! I had WSPR running on 28 MHz this morning and I was hearing some signals via Sporadic-E from Germany and Denmark.

Then I heard VK2KRR 3 times...all in the space of about 10 minutes. A quick check shows the distance to be 17,333 kms. If I worked it out correctly, then I think local sunset there was at roughly 06:58 UTC? So, the signals I heard from VK2KRR were about 10-20 minutes after his sunset.

It's likely that the F2 layer to the NW of VK2KRR became tilted after his sunset and turned his 'high' angle signal into a very low angle one.....hence the enhancement. After that it may have gone through several hops or become a chordal hop signal. I have often seen this before but it's interesting to see it displayed so well on screen.

These are the European stations that heard VK2KRR. The last leg of the journey to me was probably via Sporadic-E from central Europe. Notice that I was hearing a station in Denmark earlier and OZ7IT was hearing VK2KRR.

His signal seemed to have hopped over all the stations listening in the UK.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A fishy tale about WSPR on 28 MHz..

Friday morning 3rd June 2011.......Just started listening for WSPR signals early in the morning. After a few minutes, the trace looked like this.

The obvious horizontal line is a WSPR signal from a French station via Sporadic-E...........but all the little squiggles?

These are from illegal fishing beacons operating at 28 MHz. Basically, they turn on for about 10 seconds......drifting upwards slowly in frequency and then they give out their ID in morse. In this particular case, it just so happens to be 'AC'.

I have heard this one several times before as I had the rig turned on in the background.....but this was the first time that I actually noticed it appearing on the WSPR trace.

As for it's location???

For anyone not using WSPR, have a listen to 28.124.6 MHz on USB and see if you can hear it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

WSPR on 50 MHz...

Over the last 2 weeks or so, I have used WSPR on 50 MHz and I have heard several stations....mainly Western European countries and a bit of DX in the form of CN8LI in Morocco.

The screenshot above is from 50 Mhz today (23rd May 2011). No WSPR stations heard but you can see the lines above about 5Hz apart. At first, they might just look like some sort of computer interference but these are actually TV carriers. The band was open to Eastern Europe and the TV transmitter was probably located somewhere there. Looking at the DX-Cluster and listening down lower in the band, then it was certainly open to Poland and the Czech Republic at the time.

It also shows the limitations of WSPR on was open yet no WSPR stations heard. Outside of Western Europe and the USA, there is certainly a lack of activity from other areas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New US Trans-Atlantic 70 MHz beacon...

I saw this news item last week. A 70 MHz beacon near the East Coast of the USA will be operational this summer and beaming towards Europe. However, as you can see from the map it is operating from Virginia as opposed to the NE of the USA.

Here is part of the statement........As of  2 May, a 4-Meter Band Radio Science E-skip Trans-Atlantic (TA) propagation beacon is QRV from the East Coast of the US. QRG is 70.005 MHz, QTH is FM07fm, CW emissions. ERP is 3kW aimed at 60 degrees true towards Europe. This year’s parameters are identical to the previous 2010 operations but with a new call sign, WE9XUP, for 2011.

The beacon is scheduled to run 24 hours a day until 1 Sept, 2011 but must QRT sooner if there are technical or *any* QRM issues.

Any and all QSL/SWL reports are welcome via email to: WA1ZMS ( at ) ARRL.NET.

As you can see from the map above, the beacon in Virginia is at least one Sporadic-E away from the NE of the USA so it will require multiple hops to get across the Atlantic.

A similar beacon WE9XFT was operational in 2010 and looking at the DX-Cluster, several stations in the NE USA and Canada heard it. As this area is one Sp-E hop from Virginia, this is the most likely area where this beacon will be heard again.

In 2010, CT1HZE in Portugal heard it several times...

CT1HZE         70005.0 WE9XFT/B     539 3xEs  FB!!!      2026 04 Jul   United States
CT1HZE         70005.0 WE9XFT/B     599 3xEs             2306 02 Jul   United States
CT1HZE         70005.0 WE9XFT/B     539 Es wow! tnx Brian     1808 26 Jun   United States

I wonder if it was heard further North in 2010??? Considering that SWL stations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England have heard FM Radio stations from North America before on Band II (88-108 MHz) then it should certainly be possible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WSPR Timing issues...

I left WSPR running overnight on 30 metres and when I checked it this morning, there seemed to be very few spots. The colour screen on top was showing several signals but I didn't seem to be decoding anything. I knew that timing is a big issue with WSPR so I checked the time on the PC and it seemed to be out maybe 2-3 seconds compared to the radio-controlled clock that I have in the shack.

I reset the time on the PC and hey presto, new spots appeared! So, I went checking...

These are some of my decodes before I reset the time. Notice the DT column...I had no idea what this was before but it stands for the 'Difference in Time' between you and the station you are hearing. As you can see above, most are roughly -2 seconds out.

As you can see above, when I checked early in the morning around 05:30 UTC, there were signals present but very few decodes except for F5GCD. Once I reset the time on the PC, loads of spots appeared and the 'DT' was less than 1 second.

I know that perhaps conditions improved around sunrise but to go from what looked like good signals in the colour window with no decodes to plenty of decodes after resetting the clock certainly suggests to me that timing was a factor.

It might also explain why sometimes I also see some signals on say 28 MHz but get no decodes.

As suggested in the WSPR forum, I downloaded Dimension4 and installed it.

For a PC running Windows 7, you have it run it as an administrator. Install Programme....In the Start Menu, right click on the programme logo...Select Compatibility...Under Privilege Level, tick the box 'Run this program as an administrator' Apply....then OK

Run the programme and it should now keep your PC time updated.

Looking at the advice on the forum, they seem to suggest that signals need to be within 2-3 seconds. Hopefully, this will stop the problem.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

WSPR...Rough guide to getting on the correct frequency

When it comes to using WSPR, 2 things are crucial......
1) The time on your PC must be accurate
2) You are on the correct frequency

The WSPR band is only 200 Hz wide and you really cannot depend on the frequency readout on your radio to make sure you are on the exact frequency.

One method I use.......and it's a bit 'rough' ;o) to stay in the middle of the pack...........
A) Figure out as best you can what frequency you should be on
B) Turn off the uploads to the WSPR website
C) Once you hear someone, see what frequency the WSPR programme on your PC says they are operating on and compare that to others on the WSPR website

As you can see from picture above, on the morning of the 14th of May 2011, 7 stations were hearing CN8LI in Morocco on 28 MHz. 6 of us around the 020 to 030 mark. So by adjusting my rig so that the spots are in this range, I'm probably pretty sure that I am close to the correct frequency.

You might notice that the spots from G8BKE are about 50 Hz higher than the rest of us...i.e. He is probably 50 Hz too low. As a result, he is probably not hearing  anyone who is transmitting in the top 25% of the WSPR band.

Considering that there is only one WSPR frequency per band, all you have to do is to note the frequency on your digital readout and use the same one in future.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Radio Astronomy from Cork in Ireland!!

OK...Not exactly Amateur Radio related but I can see it from my house! The piece below appeared in a local newspaper about a 32 metre dish which happens to be the largest in the country. Instead of leaving it to rust, the dish which is located just north of Midleton in Cork is now going to be utilised for Radio Astronomy.

"IT was destined for the scrapheap, but a rusted and outdated satellite dish will soon be transmitting sounds from the very edges of the known universe. Astronomers will upgrade the 32-metre dish with hi-tech detectors, transforming it into the country’s largest deep space radio telescope and enabling it to "listen" to cosmic signals coming from distant galaxies created soon after the Big Bang. It is hoped to be in operation by June 2011.

Details of the exciting partnership between Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and the National Space Centre (NSC) Ltd will be announced this morning by Sean Sherlock TD, the Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Innovation. The telescope, located just outside Cork city, will allow astronomers to "listen" to radio waves coming from some of the most mysterious and oldest objects in the universe.

Because of its huge size, the telescope will be able to pick up signals from black holes, pulsars and quasars located billions of light years from Earth — almost at the edge of the observable universe. It will also be able to "image" most astronomical objects such as galaxies, nebulae and even radio emissions from planets.

The telescope will be linked to CIT’s Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork city, and in turn made available to thousands of school children, making it one of the biggest in Europe used for education and outreach. IT’s head of research, Dr Niall Smith, said: "There is nothing else like it in the country. It’s a pretty special instrument."

The dish, at Elfordstown, near Midleton, was developed in the 1980s as part of a joint venture between the European and American communications industries. It entered service in 1984 with Telecom √Čireann, carrying data, voice and television services between Europe and the US until the mid-1990s. But its 32-metre dish was considered too big for today’s commercial uses and it could simply have been left to rust.

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, May 09, 2011"

So a Radio Astronomy dish located 15 kms cool is that! They'll be fine as long as they don't listen on 50 MHz ;o)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WSPR on 30m to California

One of the best features of using WSPR is that you don't have to be present for it to work ;o)
It's just a case of setting it up late at night, head off to bed and then when you wake up in the morning, you just look at the WSPR website and check out the fancy maps to see what you heard.

I've listened a few nights recently on 30m but last night seems like it was good for California and the west coast of the USA. I heard 4 stations in total....
K9JM.....5w......I was the only European station to hear him.
AF6ZO...5w.....I was one of 4 in Europe to hear him.
KC6KGE.....5w......I was one of 4 in Europe but seemed to be the most consistent
K7LG......1w........I was the only European to hear him. This was the same as back in 2009.

Considering that I am just using a doublet antenna for receive which is just 4 metres above ground, it's not like I have a better antenna than anyone else in Europe. I presume it must be the location........i.e. the North West of Europe.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Listening to QRSS signals on 30m

QRSS is basically morse that is sent very slowly. QRSS3, the most common type uses dots that are 3 seconds long and dashes that are 9 seconds long. By using very slow cw, you can reduce the bandwidth and when using a suitable programme on your PC, you can see signals on the screen that you cannot hear with your ear.

The programme that I downloaded was Spectran by I2PHD. All you have to do is to create a folder on your PC for it, download the programme into it, run the programme and put the microphone from your PC next to the loudspeaker of your HF radio.

Set the radio to the CW mode and tune to 10.14000 MHz, the 30m QRSS frequency.

In my own case, I set it to 10.14008 Mhz as my rig is a fraction off frequency. On the programme, select MODE....and then PRESET QRSS3. I adjusted the slider on the bottom to 600 Hz as that is my offset on CW.

If you are in Europe and it's daytime, you should see a signal straight away. The signals often use Frequency Shift Keying and you should see the frequency change by a few Hertz.

It's not a fast mode! You have to take your time to recognise the various call signs. As you can from the screenshots above, the received signals are in white while I added in some additional info in Red and Yellow.

The callsigns F6DHI and LA5GOA can be seen. I have no idea what power F6DHI is using but the info that I found for LA5GOA was "active since 13-2-2011. erp 5-15mW in JO29OI" which is pretty impressive as the receive antenna here is just a doublet 4 metres above ground level.

I also managed to see the signal of PA1SDB. He was using almost the same frequency as F6DHI, perhaps as little as 2-3 Hz higher in frequency. His signal can be seen above as the one hidden behind F6DHI's stronger signal. There was another one at the bottom of the screen that never got strong enough to ID.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Back on WSPR again...

After a long absence, I am back using the digital mode WSPR again on receive. It's a great tool in that you can just leave the rig on one frequency then come back later and see what you have heard. You have the option of uploading what you hear to the WSPR website and a map like the one above can be generated....(Fri afternoon 29th Apr 2011 on 30m).

It's simple to use now that I have it working but there was a lot of messing about initially....downloading the programme again...and then trying to figure out why wasn't it working!

After adjusting microphone levels, ticking the right boxes, eventually worked. It was great to see the first spot decoded :o) Now all I have to do is rest the microphone on top of the loudspeaker of the HF rig, tune to the right frequency, run the programme and away it goes.

I also have a small 10 inch Netbook PC that I tried last night. No matter what I did with it, all I could see were corrupted callsigns. Even the receive screen on WSPR looked wrong...too many small lines. I tried the internal mic and an external joy. I have no idea as to why the desktop PC will work fine but the netbook will not.

Anyway, I now hope to use WSPR on 28 MHz for the Summer Sporadic-E season and see what can be heard.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CQ 2m Counties Contest...kind of

For the first time in about 2 years, I put out a signal on 144 MHz again today. I noticed about a few days ago that the IRTS 2m Counties Contest was on Easter Monday in the afternoon. Despite my best plans, I ended up just putting an old 2m 5/8th mag mount on the roof of the car in the driveway, running out a mains cable for a small power supply and quickly powering up my Yaesu FT290R.....with it's mighty 2.5 watts!

Considering I caught only the last 20 mins of the contest, this is probably not really a fair assessment of the level of activity but it did seem quiet.

A quick initial scan revealed 5/9+ signals. Checked the Cork Repeater on R6 (50 kms west)...opened it...RF getting out...aerial must be working in some fashion....back to a careful scan on FM.

Heard EI3GAB in Mallow.....gave him a few calls with my mighty 2.5 joy. Mallow is about 35kms away and on the other side of the Nagle Mountains (Hills ;o) so the received signal here was pretty weak anyway....about 5/2

Heard EI3FFB up in Co.Tipperary on the other side of the Galtees, maybe around 65 kms or so. Just above the noise on receive so no hope of him hearing me.

I'm pretty sure I heard EI4CF in Co.Galway. I didn't hear any /P at the end so I presume he was at home? If so, that's about 150 kms to the north. While my take off in that direction is very good, I'm still impressed that I heard him on the mag mount.

Down on SSB, I got my only contest contact when I worked Tommy using the club call EI7T from Caher in Co.Tipperary, a distance of roughly 65 kms. Not bad for 2.5 watts!

So that was the contest....20 contact. Tommy had given me #035 and considering that he may have worked some stations twice (SSB and FM) then I guess that it was quiet enough.

Tried out the Helvick head repeater on R3 (~50 kms) after the contest and met up with Andrew EI3GSB/M and Denis EI8GAB for the first time. With the FT290 on 0.5 watts, I had no problems working that repeater so that's a good sign. I could hear Andrew at times on the input although very weakly driving on the motorway near Caher about 60 kms away...another good sign. So it looks like if I put up any sort of decent aerial for 2m then I should get reasonable coverage.

70 MHz in Cork....
After the repeater contacts, I had a simplex QSO with Denis, EI8GAB on FM. Denis got his call in the time that I was off-air....2009/10. I was interested to hear that he is active on 4m with a converted Taxi PMR radio and there seems to be a few others active in the Cork area as well.

Looking at EI4DIB's blog, there seems to be some activity up in the Louth / North of Dublin area as well so there are at least some small pockets of activity on 70 MHz. Not sure though if anyone from either group has worked the other group yet?

On the local scene, Denis told me that there is a Simplexer in operation. This is like a repeater except that it records your audio and plays it back on the same frequency. It obviously makes for slow contacts but it's better than nothing when you can't hear the other station. It would also seem to be a good way as keeping a bit of activity on the band.

To be investigated!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Project Blue Horizon Transatlantic Balloon...Fri 22nd Apr

Just came across this.....

 Transatlantic Amateur Radio Balloon Launch

(Edit...As of Friday morning, it has launched and is heading WEST! So....not Trans-Atlantic. Press release seems like hype)
The Project Blue Horizon 5 high-altitude transatlantic balloon is scheduled for launch, weather permitting, at 0400 UTC (midnight EDST) Friday, April 22, from Oswego, New York. The weather forecast for launch time calls for clear to partly cloudy conditions.

The Project Blue Horizon team is attempting to break current Amateur Radio high-altitude balloon records for distance (3361.81 miles) and duration (49 hours, 45 minutes). The payload will be carried beneath a 54,000 cubic foot capacity helium-filled balloon cruising between 85,000 and 100,000 feet.

Amateurs worldwide are encouraged to monitor the N2XE CW telemetry beacons at 7.1023 and 10.1466 MHz. The balloon is also equipped with an APRS beacon at 144.39 MHz using the call sign KC2ZJH. Amateurs can send reports via e-mail to

More information about the program, including the latest projected flight path, is at the Project Blue Horizon website at,

Some info about the 2009 flight on the Soldersmoke blog

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Conditions on 28 MHz...23rd March to 6th April 2011

I have checked the 28 MHz band every day from the 24th of March to the 6th of April 2011. Looking back at the logbook from some time in the future, it might be very easy to get an impression that the bands were brilliant. This post sets out exactly what I heard and worked and I can compare it to say a different point in the current solar cycle.

Some points.....
1) For this period, I was using an old vertical half-wave CB type aerial at about 4 metres above ground level....a pretty modest set-up. The transceiver was a TS690 running 80-100 watts.
2) The solar flux was roughly 100-110. The 28 MHz band was open every day. A few of the days could be described as 'good' with S9 signals and strong enough to be worked on SSB. Most of the days, the signals were weak....less than S5....and this is when CW came into it's own.
3) Most of the stations I worked were with CW. If I was restricted to SSB only, my log would have looked very bare indeed.
4) All signals are F2 related unless otherwise stated.

This is what I heard / worked on 28 MHz over this 2 week period...starting NE and working west...

A) I worked XV2RZ (cw) in Vietnam and VR2UW (cw) in Hong Kong....
I heard HS (Thailand), YB (Indonesia) and western Australia. The furthest I heard and the biggest suprise was the VK8VF beacon near Darwin in Northern Australia.

B) In the Middle East, 7Z1HL (cw) in Saudi Arabia.....

...and A45XR (cw) in Oman were worked while the beacons A47RB and A62ER (UAE) were heard. In South Asia, stations from western India were heard. Further north, several stations in the western part of Asiatic Russia were heard as well as a UN station in Kazakhstan.

C) In eastern Europe, I worked several stations in European Russia and the Ukraine, all on cw. When the band did open up in this direction, the one hop F2 signals were strong. This was especially the case on the 2nd of April when I heard YO (Romania) as well.

D) One of the areas with the most consistent signals was the eastern Med. The only stations I worked were 5B/US5IDX (cw) in Cyprus and 4Z5RT (cw) in Israel although I heard plenty of other stations in 4Z (Israel), 5B4 (Cyprus), JY (Jordan), TA (Turkey), SV9 (Crete), SV5 (Rhodes) and SV (Greece).
From this region, the beacons SV5TEN 28.189 MHz (Rhodes...KM46), 5B4CY on 28.220 MHz (Cyprus...KM64) and 4X6TU/B on 28.200 Mhz (Israel..KM72) seemed to be there almost every day.
These are in the region of 2800 to 4200 kms which for one hop F2 signals would suggest an arrival angle of around 0 to 7 degrees above the horizon.

E) When the F2 skip distance got shorter, the SV3AQR/B beacon on 28.183 MHz (sw Greece...KM07) was heard at roughly 2,800 kms and SV2AHT/B (N.Greece...KN10). Several SV stations were also heard. Sometimes the skip distance got even shorter and IT9EJW/B (Sicily....JM77) and IQ8CZ/B (S.Italy...JM88) were heard. These 2 beacons at roughly 2,500 kms was the shortest skip F2 signals that I heard. That kind of distance for F2 would suggest an arrival angle of about 8 degrees above the horizon.

F) Africa......As expected, North-South propagation was the most consistent and was most likely due to F2 and some Trans-Equitorial Propagation (TEP). In the southern part of Africa, the ZS6DN beacon on 28.200 was often heard as well as several ZS stations. Other beacons heard were Z21ANB in Zimbabwe while 3B8MM in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean was worked on cw and 9J2BO in Zambia was heard.
Further north, I worked the following...5N7M (cw) in Nigeria, D4C (cw) in Cape Verde Islands, TJ3AY (ssb) in Cameroon, 5M2TT (cw) in Liberia, EA8/DL2DXA (cw) and EA8OM (cw) in the Canary Islands and ST2AR (cw) in Sudan.
Also heard were 5H3EE in Tanzania, TR8CA in Gabon and the 5Z4B/B beacon in Kenya.

G) South America.....Again, North-South F2/TEP propagation was consistent. Many PY (Brazil) and LU (Argentina) stations were heard as well as the following beacons....PY4MAB/B (GG68) and LU5FB/B (FF97). CX5BW in Uruguay was also heard while VP8LP in the Falkland Islands was worked on ssb.

(H) West Indies/Carrib....In this region, I worked VP5/W5CW (cw) in the Turks & Caicos Islands while FM5AA and FG4NN were heard. It was an area that I didn't hear too often.

(I) North America......There were a few openings to North America but as they are on a more East/West path, the path was more difficult. The most consistent region heard was the south-eastern USA..i.e. Florida area. Beacons heard in that region were....W3HH/B (Florida...EL89), AC4DJ/B (Florida...EL98), KJ4QYB/B (Alabama...EM63), KB4UPI/B (Alabama...EM64) and W4TIY/B (Georgia...EM73).

Slightly further north, the beacon WA4FC/B in Virginia (FM17) was heard while K1ON in Delaware was worked on cw.

In the NE of the USA, the beacon N1ME/B in Maine was heard several times. This beacon is roughly 4,000 kms from me so it was probably one hop F2 propagation whereas the others were all multi-hop.

The most unusual North-American beacons heard were XE1RCS/B in Mexico (EK09) and WA6MHZ/B in California (DM12). (Note that the first dot seemed to be missing from the WA6MHZ/B beacon. Instead of ' .  _ _' , it was ' _ _' i.e. M!! So what I heard was MA6MHZ/B ;o)
Other than the beacons, there was no other indication that the band was open to these areas. Even for the other American beacons, when I could hear them, the level of activity from these areas seemed very low.

(J) Sporadic-E......In this 2 week period, I noticed 2 short Sporadic-E openings into on the 4th of April and one on the 5th. The following beacons were heard....OE3XAC/B in Austria (JN78), OZ7IGY/B in Denmark (JO55), OK0EG/B in the Czech Rep. (JO70), DB0UM/B in Germany (JO73) and SK0CT/B in Sweden (JO89). SP100MSC (Poland) was worked on cw. All were in the 1,400 to 1,800 distance which is typical for Sporadic-E.

Observations & Conclusions....
1) Most of the signals heard and worked were relatively weak, certainly most were less than S5 while many were just above the noise. To get the most out of the band, you have to spend time listening to weak signals and waiting for signals to come out of the noise. In this aspect, it has more in common with say 6 metres (50 MHz) than say the other HF bands like say 20 Metres (14 MHz). I think it would have been very easy for someone to listen on the band for a few minutes and get the impression that there was nothing there.

2) I was suprised to work and hear so much with such a modest antenna, especially VR2UW in Hong Kong, XV2RZ in Vietnam and the beacons in Northern Australia and in California. If I had been using say an indoor antenna like say a loft dipole, I think a lot of the signals would have been too weak to hear or work. Then again, a beam at say 10 metres up would probably have revealed a lot more.

3) No Japanese signals heard. These were common near the peak of the last cycle. So no real NNE Propagation from here. Same with the USA. There were bits but not much in reality. No NW USA....or mid-west...or states like Illinois/Indiana/Ohio, etc.

4) I have a large hill to the South-West of my location yet I was a bit suprised to hear so many of the South-American stations.

5) I often heard those illegal fishing buoys which give out carrier about 10 seconds long followed by a cw ident. I seemed to hear more in the afternoon than morning which might suggest that they are used in the Atlantic? West Africa? Mid ocean? Impossible to tell.

6) Very often, the last signal on the band in the late evening would be coming from EA8 (Canary Islands). It's a pity that there isn't a beacon there on 28 MHz.

7) USA....loads of beacons there...very useful and easy to see what part of the country is open.

8) All of the F2 layer signals were coming in between 0 and 8 degrees above the horizon. The Sporadic-E signals that I heard were between 2 and 5 degrees. As always, if you want to work DX on 10 metres then you need to get your signal down near the horizon.

9) Going on these results, there should be some great conditions on 28 MHz over the next few years as the solar cycle improves.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Greece to South Africa via TEP on 70 MHz...

I came across this today....the first ever contact between Greece and South Africa on 70 MHz!

As far as I can tell, it happened on the 28th of March 2011 when SV2DCD in KN00LI worked ZS6WAB in KG46RC via Trans-Equatorial Propagation. The distance was just over 7,200 kms as they worked on 70.200 MHz SSB.

SV2DCD was running 70w into a 9 el yagi at 10m agl.

It just goes to show the possibilities of this band.

Finding locator / grid squares...

This is one of those websites and utilities that I had forgotten about so when I discovered it again, I thought that I must put up a post about it so I won't lose it again!

F6FVY has an excellent website that uses Google maps and a simple interface to find your locator / grid square. You just use the controls to zoom in to where you on your house...and up pops your locator square. There is also a box at the bottom of the page where you can input the locator details and it will show up on the map. It's simple to use and shows exactly what the size of the square is.

An excellent site for anyone with an interest in VHF..........or 10 metre beacons ;o)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Morserunner...a CW contest simulator

An 18 month absence from the radio hasn't done much for my CW skills. At first, very rusty yet after a few minutes, it starts coming back. I guess it's a bit like learning to ride a bicycle, one you can do it, you never forget.

As well as listening to CW on the various bands, one of the ways to brush up on your CW is to use a contest simulator.

I came across Morserunner a few years back and it's a novel way of listening to morse. It basically simulates operating in a CW contest and you just use the function keys on the PC keyboard to control everything. As it is all off-air, there is no pressure and you can make as many mistakes as you like.

Friday, March 25, 2011

10 metres...Thurs 24th March 2011

After the good conditions on 28 MHz yesterday, I tried listening again the next day on the 24th of March. The band was a lot quieter though. No SE Europe or Middle East.

The first signal heard was Z22JE in Zimbabwe at around 11:00 followed soon after by the Z21ANB beacon on 28250.2 MHz.

The band was pretty quiet though. Then I came across WA4FC/B in central Virginia on 28231.1 MHz running 5 watts to a vertical. Other than that beacon, there was no indication that the band was open to North America so I put this spot up on the Dx-Cluster. While the Dx-Cluster gets a fair bit of abuse with lots of rubbish spots, it's invaluable for the likes of 10 metres where a unusual path can open up.

Also heard was ZS6TQ and then VP8LP in the Falkland Islands. The VP8 station seemed nice and loud so out came the microphone from the drawer...plugged it in...and gave him a joy :o(
There were just too many stations calling him. So, I just the radio on in the background and about 10 minutes later, his signal seemed to peak and I tried again....and success! :o)

My first contact since July 2009. I have worked Falkland Island before on 10 metres but it was still nice to see that my signal was heard way down in the South Atlantic....even if it was only a 5/3 ;o)

Also heard were ZR1ADI (South Africa) and LU5FC....but the level of activity was still well down on yesterday.

....and finally, I heard 5N7M on cw. Really weak. He was 219 and peaking 319. There was no point in calling since I wouldn't be sure if I would hear my own call coming back.

So again, I left the radio on that frequency.........and about 15 minutes later, the signals got strong enough to try. After a few attempts, 5N7M was in the log....Nigeria on 10m cw :o)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back on the radio & conditions on 28 Mhz...

Turned on the radio again today after a long absence. Looking at my logbook, my last contact was in July 2009! Back then, the talk was of solar minimums and how poor conditions were.

Today, the Solar Flux Index is at 100 and the 28 MHz band was in fine shape. There was plenty of genuine F2 propagation about with signals coming in from SE Europe / Middle East / Africa / South America / SE USA.

Considering I was only listening with an old simple half-wave CB vertical antenna, I was suprised at how strong some of the signals were...especially the beacons running only a few watts.

This is a list of what I heard on 28 Mhz today...
South East Europe...SV3AQR/B (Greece 4w vert), SV5TEN/B (Rhodes), IQ8CZ/B ,  IT9EJW/B (Sicily 3w), 5B4CY/B (Cyprus) , SV0XCC/9 (Crete), SV2AHT/B
Mid-East...HZ1DG (Saudi Arabia), TA4AU
Africa...EA8CTF , ZS1AX , TJ3FC (Cameroon) , D44AC (Cape Verde Is) , TR8CA (Gabon) 
South America...PU2TGK , PU2UEO , LW4EU , YV5DTJ , ZP5DBC
Caribbean...FM4NB (Martinique)
USA...W4TIY/B (Georgia) , KB4UPI/B (Alabama 5w) , KJ4QYB/B (Alabama), W3HH/B (Florida 12w)

Other unusual signals heard were...
1) G0IVZ in Cornwall...just about audible....either weak tropo or F2 back-scatter?
2) Illegal Fishing Buoys.....or at least that's what I think they were as suggested by this IARU piece.
The ones that I noticed were in the 10m beacon band. They transmitted a carrier for a few seconds and then gave a CW id. The ones I noted were...
28191.4 cw ident was 'CT' with a very bad chirp
28225.0 cw ident was 'EI'
28255.0 cw ident was 'DK' for their location???