About a week ago, I started looking through some of the more recent issues of the IRTS Newsletter and some of the items there caught my interest. One in particular was the two part piece by EI5DD on WSPR and QRSS which was something I had spent a bit of time on in the past. This got me looking at some of the blogs that I 'follow'. One mentioned good conditions on 28 MHz and that was the trigger to turn on the rig last weekend.
Needless to say, some of the aerials are in a bad way after the year of neglect. I know I cut through some wire with the hedge clippers a few weeks back ;o) . Suprisingly enough, the 10m vertical still works fine! After all of the gales last Winter and Spring, it's still reasonably straight and the VSWR seems fine. There is perhaps a lot to be said for having a cheap half-wave CB antenna on a 4 metre pole as opposed to something better up at a greater height.
Solar Flux......The big difference in the last 15 months of course is the solar flux. In the Summer of 2011, the solar flux was down around the 100 mark whereas it is now up around 140. Looking at the graph for the current solar cycle, it is predicted to peak in mid 2013 so perhaps it's a good time to be back on the radio!
Conditions over the weekend......Sat 29th/Sun 30th Sept 2012.......I spent most of the time on the radio this weekend listening for the various beacons around 28.2 MHz. The best thing about the beacons is that they give a good snapshot of what conditions are like on the band which may not always be obvious when listening to SSB. I also have to admit that I have pretty much no interest in chasing DX or contests so I had no real interest in making loads of contacts.......a case of been there, done that.
The lists below are from the Saturday, the 29th of September. The items in bold are the ones of interest to me...
Saturday 29th Sept 2012
28264.0 AB8Z/B EN91dj
28250.1 K0HTF/B EN31do
28246.4 KI4LEV/B EM66io
28231.0 WA4FC/B FM17fe
28224.7 YM7TEN/B KN91
28222.5 N4QDK/B EM96
28214.1 N4PAL/B EM70vm
28212.5 KJ4QYB/B EM63
28207.0 N3NIA/B Beacon on .205 and .207 1216 29 Sep United States
28205.1 N3NIA/B FN01pk
28204.6 KE4TWI/B EM66uc
28193.1 LU2ERC/B GF15ad
28188.7 SV5TEN/B KM46ck
28182.5 SV3AQR/B KM07qs
What was interesting though were the beacons in the mid US. e.g. K0HTF/B in EN31 in Iowa (2.5w/GP) and W0ILO/B in EN16 in North Dakota. This is a more northerly path and means that conditions were good.
CW Beacons on 28 MHz heard from North America on Saturday, the 28th of September 2012
As you can see from the map above, most of the beacons heard were roughly in a broad arc going from Florida to the Great Lakes. This can be easily explained by the fact that it was most likely double hop F2 propagation.
For example, Florida is roughly 6,500 kms...too far for one F2 hop.....but perfect when you consider 2 x 3,250 km hops...a typical distance for signals on 28 MHz when the MUF is probably just up over 30 MHz. This also explains why nothing heard from the 1 or 2 call areas in the NE of the US....too far for one hop and too close for the second hop. In effect, the propagation footprint can be laid out like a series on concentric rings or doughnuts.
The only one hop signal heard to the west was VY0SNO/B in FR53rs in Baffin Island. This was also very close to half-way for double hop to the signals heard from California (2 x 4,000 kms = 8,000 kms). The fact that the 28 MHz signals went this far north is a sure sign of how good conditions were. There is something special about hearing the West coast of the US and Canada on 10 metres.
So was the band wide open on 28 MHz? Well....no. When it's wide open, you hear all the US call areas and then maybe Alaska and Hawaii. Conditions still have a way to go before they reach those reached during the last solar cycle.