Saturday, December 27, 2008
GB3RAL on 28 MHz & the Ursids Meteor Shower
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Dec 22nd....Good Tropo conditions on 144 MHz from EI
Monday, December 22, 2008
Getting ready for the ARRL's LOTW....Logbook of the World program
Logbook of the World is the system used by the ARRL in the DXCC program to get electronic confirmation of contacts/qso's. If two stations upload their logs and there is a match for callsigns, date, time (30 minute window I think) and mode then each station gets a credit. There is no need to submit a QSL card to the ARRL to verify the contact if you were applying for a DXCC award.
This has 2 big advantages as far as I can see...
1) It's another method by which you can get some of the rare countries confirmed. Having had countless direct QSL cards not replied to, getting contacts confirmed electronically has obvious attractions.
2) It should/might reduce the number of incoming QSL cards. After all, if someone else works me and needs to have EI confirmed then regular LOTW users won't need to send me a QSL card.
Current status.......22nd Dec 2008
I remember looking at LOTW before but I could not remember when. I had a folder on my PC with files created in March 2005 so it was three and half years ago!
I download the current version of the programme tqsl-111.exe (the version I had was tqsl-110.exe).
Normally, you would run this programme and complete the first step which is to run TQSLCert and create a certificate request. I obviously had done this before as I have the required file (EI7GL.tq5) already in the relevant folder on my PC.
I went to the ARRL LOTW website and uploaded the certificate request. I got the following results....
Certificate request processor result:
Started processing your New Certificate Request.
For call sign: EI7GL
For DXCC Entity: IRELAND (245)
For QSOs not before: 1986-10-03 00:00:00
For QSOs not after:
Your certificate request is accepted and awaiting further processing.
You must mail in (via postal mail) supporting documentation to complete the request.
Details about what to send and where to send it can be found at:
Your certificate request processing is completed.
All non-US radio amateurs are required to send in supporting documentation to obtain a certificate. As luck would have it, buried in amongst all of the packets of QSL cards I found an old envelope with all the required photocopies (passport & EI7GL licence) and I had never posted. Next step is to post it! (Posted letter 22nd Dec 08........Received password by e-mail on 5th Jan 2009)
With the current progress of updating my logbook, I probably won't be in a position to use LOTW until April 2009 at the earliest anyway so there is no mad panic.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Beacons on 28 MHz during the Geminids meteor shower...14th Dec 2008
Same as the last time....Kenwood transciever on CW, 500 Hz filter. Antenna....old commercial CB type end fed half wave about 4 metres above ground level. I monitored the received audio using the Sprectrum Lab audio analyzer program.
I tried listening for 4 different beacons on 28 MHz......GB3RAL (~500 kms), LA4TEN (~1,200 kms), F5ZWE (~1,300 kms) and DL0IGI (~1,500 kms). I listened at two different times on the 14th of December.....around 01:00 for GB3RAL and LA4TEN and around 09:00 for all 4 beacons.
Listening around 01:00......
GB3RAL.....I received a few bursts from this beacon. Nothing spectacular but it seemed to be there ok. Due to the fact that it has a faulty keyer, I was not able to get a positive ID. Like before, a lot more shows up on the trace than what I could hear by ear.
LA4TEN......This beacon seemed to be very good. It seemed to be nearly always there and at times, it got strong enough so that I could hear the CW by ear and make a positive ID.
Why was the LA4TEN beacon so consistent?
1) My view in that direction is excellent with no obstructions so that may have helped.
2) Is it the fact that 1,200 kms might be a much better distance for meteor scatter. Certainly for GB3RAL at 500 kms, I would expect that more intense meteor bursts might be required (more ionization) and the bursts would be of shorter duration.
3) Perhaps certain directions are better at different times during the shower??
4) Or perhaps it was the power level? LA4TEN is supposed to have an ERP of 250 watts which is very high for a beacon.
5) Of course, there is always the chance that what I heard was actually weak Sporadic-E rather than just meteor scatter propogation. It's seems unlikely at 1am in the morning in December. Considering that the peak of the shower was around this time, it was probably meteor scatter.
Listening around 09:00....
Conditions were worse. I still got a few pings from GB3RAL. I got very little from DL0IGI and F5ZWE. However, LA4TEN seemed as busy as ever! Looking at other sites, the peak was well over at this stage. In addition, the radiant point for the showers in Gemini may have set below the horizon by that time. I wonder though if the LA4 beacon at this stage was Sporadic-E or or not???
1) I need to find out what times the radiant point is above the horizon for any future shower and what the likely peak time will be.
2) The results show that meteor scater on 28 MHz is pretty impressive. Everything heard here was with an antenna with no gain.
International Meteor Organisation
G7IZU meteor detection page
Next shower is the Ursids on the 22nd of December.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
ARRL 10 Metre Contest...13th/14th December 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
EI/ON5GS/P in IO55 square QRT???
However on Sunday, it seems like the expedition came to a halt when the antennas fell over in the wind. The winds on Sunday morning were from the North-West and this site looks like it might be very exposed in that direction.
Here are some of the comments from ON4KST chat.....
"LATEST NEWS from DXC 2008-12-14 1039 UT: <<<>>>> Heavy storm has blow over his mast. Antennas crashed. Dirk went QRT"
"well too bad for EI/ON5GS/p: I thought Dirk would make it to the end and would not join the list of blown away DXP's in IO55"
"Dirk, ON5GS, was qrv serveral days from his "berlingo" shack with 4x4el vert stacked antennas. At Dec.14 10.39UTC Anton ON6NL reported: EI/ON5GS/P is QRT! Heavy storm destroyed his antenna"
Some details of the Expedition can be found at http://www.on7kei.be/forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=244 and on my earlier post.
Is he QRT for good??? ON5GS is supposed to be there until the 20th. Even if all of the antennas were destroyed, there are some radio shops within driving distance so maybe not???
Now QRT. More info on what was worked at http://www.mmmonvhf.de/showblog.php?ca=EI-ON5GS-P
Update...21:00 (14/12/08) The EI3EBB 'antenna farm'. Diamond X510 on the left and a Watson 2000 on the right. Adjusting the 50 MHz radial on the Watson 2000 50 MHz......It has 3 ground planes with one of them adjustable for tuning the antenna to 50 MHz. The initial test showed that the VSWR was lowest up around 51 MHz. After adjusting the radial for maximum lenght, the lowest VSWR was at 50.7 MHz. The VSWR plot was as follows... The 1:1.5 VSWR bandwidth seems to be around 0.9 MHz and the 1:2 VSWR bandwidth was 1.5 MHz. The final result is that the VSWR for the SSB portion of the band is 1:1.4 to 1.6 which should be ok. It's not that we had much choice when it came to tuning anyway because if we had adjusted it any further, the radial would have fallen out! Updated 25th Nov 2008......We did a few tests by going mobile around the roads near EI3EBB's location. We used a loaded quarter wave magmount on the roof of the car and an IC706 parked on 50.052 MHz CW. Now, the tests were a bit subjective as we had ignition noise, noise from the car's electronics and there was some fading on the signal as well. Yet, we still got a good feel for what could be heard. Area 1) Around EI3EBB's location which is about 500 metres back from the brow of the hill and at ground level, would be around 5 metres lower. The signal was very weak, maybe 319, 419 max. Area 2) Near the peaks of the local hills (~2-3kms away, 40m higher and 15m higher) to the East and West of EI3EBB. Here the beacon was around 539, nice solid signal and a lot stronger than with the Watson 2000 at EI3EBB's place. (On the hill to the East, the signal did not really get strong until we cleared the trees) Area 3) The strongest signals by far were along the Northern slopes of the Eastern hill. The signal peaked around 559 here, amazingly strong for a beacon that was around 165 kms away. I have seen this with VHF signals before where the signals on the downward slope of a hill in the direction of which the signals are coming are often stronger than at the top. Conclusions....??? Still nothing definite. We established that the Knockmealdown mountains (direction of EI0SIX) are visible from the Watson 2000 on the roof. If there is any 'local' high ground in the way, it's not much. We tried just holding the magmount out a skylight on the roof so that it was close to the height of the Watson and doing some tests by comparing it to the Watson with a coax switch. We could hear the beacon a little bit better with the Watson. So, in other words, we were hearing the beacon 'a bit' better on what is supposed to be a resonant half wave antenna than a loaded quarter wave with no ground plane. Perhaps it's a bit early to come to any firm conclusion on the Watson 2000 but for the moment, on 6 metres at least, there is certainly no 'wow' factor. Solar Flux figures (Red line) for May 2008 to Nov 2008. More or less at or just below 70.
Back in action......but this time in IO65 square.
SP6NVN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io65jg
SP2MKO 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx for new loc / vy73 1959 14 Dec
F1DUZ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IN97NJ<>IO65 TNX new loc again 1957 14 Dec
DF8IK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io65jg-jo30 tnx 1950 14 Dec
Here are some of the other spots from the DX-cluster....(Blue=Tropo)
ON6NL 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P QRT! Storm blow antennas away 1043 14 Dec
G4ZFJ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JO01HO
IO55XA 55 FSK 0929 14 Dec
F1DUZ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P WRONG frequ b4 0920 14 Dec
F1DUZ 144352.0 EI/ON5GS/P IN97NJ
DF0WD 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55xc>jo42 fsk,fb 20sec burst 0850 14 Dec
I4XCC 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx new square! #543 2248 13 Dec
PE1OPK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JO23
PA3DOL 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Many thanks for new # 27/27 C 2148 13 Dec
HA5UK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P jn97-io55 2061km tnx 2124 13 Dec
DK7DR 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P jn47dp
OE3SJA 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P sorry not finish...chaos ! ! ! 2019 13 Dec
OE3SJA 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P in qso only....chaos... 2008 13 Dec
SP6NVN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx qso 1944 13 Dec
OZ8ZS 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR IO55
IZ5ILX 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN54<> IO55 TNX QSO !! 1930 13 Dec
EA6VQ 144090.0 EI/ON5GS QRV for you. Tnx 1726 13 Dec
DF6YL 144385.0 EI/ON5PS/P tnx for new# io55
OH6PA 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P TNX 4 New # best 940/8 1554 13 Dec
DF4IP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P TNX FR QSO 1252 13 Dec
DG5AAG-@ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx qso & new square 1227 13 Dec
DK1VI 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN49HH
EI5FK-@ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55XC 52/57 tropo tnx 1128 13 Dec
DF8IK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55-jo30 tnx qso 1104 13 Dec
DF1SO 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55
HB9DFG 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN37SM
DJ5BV 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55
DG5CST 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P gd refl. io55/jo60 gl! 0942 13 Dec
PE1GUR 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx random qso IO55<>JO22, 2142 12 Dec
PA1VW 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Tnk new #, 140/2 2107 12 Dec
SP3IYM 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P new #188 without SMS/chat pwr 1908 12 Dec
OK1TEH 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR jo70-io55 #520 tnx! 1845 12 Dec
F5JNX 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Best 780/4db tnx new # 1836 12 Dec
PA3CEE 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P MS IO55 Tnx loc. #705! 1809 12 Dec
OZ1IEP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P new loc. 1725 12 Dec
DF2ZC 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P sri typo 1717 12 Dec
DF2ZC 144305.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55
OZ1BNN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P TU fer new grid GL. 1653 12 Dec
DL1RPL-@ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx MS QSO 73 GL 1440 12 Dec
DL1EAP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55
SP2MKO 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx for new loc 1048 12 Dec
DG5AAG-@ 144000.0 EI/ON5GS/P 384 or 385 ??? 1031 12 Dec
ON7KEI 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P FSK441 sket elinknode 7125 0917 12 Dec
I2FAK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN45
ON4KHG 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55XA
DF6YL 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx new# jo31
DL1SUN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P norm refl, c, #563 1941 11 Dec
SP6HED 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JO80IL
ES3RF 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR ko29
DH4FAJ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN49EX
SP2JYR 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P 1760km with 50W - Tnx Dirk ! 1755 11 Dec
PA1GYS 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Tnx qso jo22
PA3FPQ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55 tnx new #. FB refl. GL! 1657 11 Dec
PA4EME 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR JO20WX
G4PBP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P MS from io55xc 1613 11 Dec
G8GXP 144370.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55
IO93 59 450KMS TNX 1610 11 Dec
G4PBP 144370.0 EI/ON5GS/P 5/5-9 tropo in io82wo 1607 11 Dec
SP6NVN 144370.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55xc
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
GB3RAL and the Leonids Meteor Shower...17th Nov 2008
During the morning of the 17th of November which was supposed to be the peak of the Leonids meteor shower, I tried listening for the GB3RAL beacon in England on 28.215 MHz.
Equipment.....Kenwood TS690s tuned to 28.215.1 MHz on CW (500 Hz filter fitted)
Antenna........Half wave 10 metre vertical at 5 metres AGL
Distance......490 kms due East from here (IO91in<->IO51tu)
As well as listening by ear to the received signals, I put the microphone from the PC next to the rig and monitored the signal with the Spectrum Lab Audio Analyzer program.
After a while, I got a few audible pings that showed on the waterfall dislay so I could see that there was something there around 500 Hz.
At 09:24, I recorded what was the start of a long 5 to 6 minute burst. As you can see above, it started suddenly and after a few minutes, it began to slowly fade away. Listening by ear, I could just about hear that there was something there yet it showed up quite clearly on the waterfall display.
From what I could hear, there was no cw. It was just a constant carrier.
However when I looked at the display closer, I could see that the signal was about 7 Hz wide before finally becoming a narrower signal. I can see from beacon lists that the GB3RAL beacon uses FSK....i.e. the carrier moves in frequency to generate the CW rather than turning on and off. I asked the beacon keeper G0MJW about this and he informed me that the keyer on the beacon has failed and a replacement is under construction.
What I heard and saw was like the beacon keyer was still working (i.e. FSK) except that the frequency shift was now a lot lower than it should be (i.e. 7 Hz instead of say 300 Hz).
Q. Was it GB3RAL that I heard? Probably likely but to be honest, until I can get a positive ID, I will never be 100% sure. I might have a listen again during the Geminids and see how it goes.
(1) The various other lines shown on the above displays are mainly just interference generated by the PC. Even though I can't hear them, they show up quite clearly on the display.
Friday, December 5, 2008
DX-pedition to IO55 square on 144 MHz...Dec 2008
The above map shows the locator squares in Ireland. Some of the squares like IO51, IO63 and IO74 have a number of amateurs in them who are pretty active so are not so rare. The other ones are not so easy to catch. The squares on the Western seaboard (IO41-44) are all pretty rare while the square in the most North Western tip of Ireland (IO55) is the rarest of all. By all accounts, it is on the EU Top 10 most wanted list!
Well, it turns out that Dirk, ON5GS is going to activate the square on 144 MHz during the Geminids meteor shower in mid-December. The information from the website reads as follows...
"I will be qrv on 2m during BCC contest in IO55 (top-10 EU most wanted) using EI/ON5GS/P with 4 x 6el DK7ZB and 200w from a citroën berlingo-shack in donegal NW-ireland from 10-20 dec 2008. All MS skeds before and after contest and/or EME skeds during the period in moonset/moonrise are welcome on dirk_reyners_AT_hotmail.com or sms ++32477677005 or 14.345 MHz during operation. I will most possibly be qrv on ON4KST chat and DX-cluster via GPRS so you will find me there for a sked also. Please no skeds during contest. My random freq is 144.384MHz good luck may the rocks be with you (...and with me HI) Dirk Reyners ON5GS."
There is a link on the post for a website in Flemish but you can see that he is obviously doing a lot of work getting ready for the trip.
IO55......When you look at a map, it may not be the easiest of squares to activate.
1) Logistics.....anyone coming from Europe will arrive in the South East/East of the country and will have to drive all the ways to the North West corner....not an easy journey.
2) Trying to find a good location in the square.
As you can see from the map, there are a lot of mountains to the South, South-East and East. Trying to find a spot with a low horizon will be tricky. It will be interesting to see the results.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
DXCC Card Checker in EI.......
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The EI 50 MHz Inactivity night....
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Not a spot to be seen....
Saturday, November 22, 2008
EI3EBB, Watson 2000 & antenna work...
The Watson 2000 is a 3 band fibreglass VHF antenna. On 50 MHz, it is a half wave (claimed 0dBd gain), on 144 MHz it is a 2 x 5/8 wave (4dBd claimed) and 432 MHz, it is 4 x 5/8 wave (6.4 dBd). The overall lenght is 2.5 metres so the claim that it has the same gain as a half wave (3 metres) on 50 MHz is a bit optimistic.
144 MHz....The VSWR meter suggested the following...
This suggests that the aerial was slightly too long. Certainly, the VSWR looks a bit high for the FM part of the band where this type would normally be used. As there was no way of adjusting the VSWR on 2 metres, we had to leave it as is. Did adjusting the 6 metre radial affect the VSWR on 2 metres?? We didn't check.
432 MHz....We had no equipment to check the VSWR on this band.
(Note...The VSWR was checked with a pretty cheap meter. A days later, we took some readings with another meter. While there was some differences, the VSWR minimum point stayed the same. There was nothing to suggest that the graph above is not accurate)
50 MHz.....It's way too early to say how this aerial performs on 6 metres. The only way we had of testing it was to listen to the EI0SIX beacon and compare it to how I hear it at my place. On paper, we both expected the beacon to be a lot stronger at EI3EBB's location. He is roughly double the height above sea level that I am and he is near the top of the range of hills that I have as my horizon. In addition, he is using an aerial that is resonant and should have nearly the gain of a dipole while I am just listening on a non-resonant CB half wave. If I was hearing the beacon at 319 to 419, I would have expected it to be maybe 539 at EI3EBB's place?
Instead, the beacon is very weak at his house. Why??
Is it the Watson 2000? It's hard to believe it's that bad. Anyway, it seemed to have got a good review here.
Different path???.....I looked at some maps and we have almost the same path (EI3EBB - 168kms - 38 deg / EI7GL - 183 kms - 34 deg). If anything, the path for Alan looks slightly better in that the Knockmealdown mountains look like more of an obstruction for me.
Local obstructions???......EI3EBB has some high ground to the East but at 38 degrees, he should be clear of most of it. Is there some sort of 'plateau' effect?? Is the aerial just in a null spot?
144 MHz......Compared to the Diamond X510 which is nearby, the Watson is a bit down as expected. The only tests done were listening to local repeaters and they seemed fine.
(Notes....Limerick Repeater on IC706. X510=s'9+10', Watson=s'9').
432 MHz.....No tests done.
So, EI3EBB in IO52ta is back on 6 metres...
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Number of EI stations...
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
CASHOTA...new Irish award
Monday, November 17, 2008
Echoes from a bygone era...
Friday, November 14, 2008
VQLog...Progress of editing the VQLog logging program
DX, DXCC, VQLog and a mountain of QSL cards...
1) The HF Happenings column which covered nearly 4 pages. It's written by EI9FBB who appearently is in Cork and it's obvious it takes a fair bit of work to put it together. I'm not sure if after reading it, I'd go try chasing DX again ;o) but a good article all the same.
2) DXCC awards gained by EI stations, especially the single band ones. This was the aspect that I used to be interested in.....getting DXCC on a band rather than just using a combination of bands. Each band has it's own characteristics and the challenge for me was to see if it was possible to get DXCC on each band using just 100 watts.
The chart in the magazine is shown below...
Monday, November 10, 2008
BS7H...how small is too small??
I know it's rare....and I'm sure a lot of people were delighted to get a contact with this station....but it's only a few rocks in the middle of the ocean!! Maybe I'm after getting sceptical after my absence from the DX scene for a few years ;o) ......but to call it a seperate DXCC country seems to be really stretching credibility a bit.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Nov 2008...10 metres in Cork, Ireland (EI)
Solar Flux figures....
As of the start of November, we are just coming out of the sunspot minimum and conditions are very poor. Probably not the best time to get going on 10 metres again ;o)
The solar flux at the start of the month is around 69 which is very low. Direct F2 propogation would seem to be unlikely at the moment.
Tues 4th November 2008.....
Nothing at all heard on 10 metres. Listening to 11 metres, I heard some weak signals from North Italy and Spain. This was probably weak Sporadic-E, unusual for this time of year.
Wed 5th November 2008.....
Around mid-day, there was a weak Sporadic-E opening on 10 metres. I heard...
OK0EG on 28.282.46 MHz (1,690 kms). Signal about 419 (OK0EG beacon ten watts)(OK Beacon Website = 28,2825. OK0EG, nr Hradec Kralove, LOC JO70vf, ASL 240m, Ant Dipole omni, ERP 10w)
DL0IGI on 28.205.13 MHz (1,460 kms). Signal about 419. (DL0IGI JN57mt BEACON PWR 48W). The website suggests that it was 150 watts but the DX cluster confirms that I heard it ok.
I1M on 28.180.50 MHz (1,490 kms). This one was very weak, about 319. Nearest town = Bordighera. Locator = JN33UT. 5 watts to a 5/8 GP???
On 11 metres, weak German and later Spanish CB stations were heard. All signals heard were typical of single hop Sporadic-E.
Thursday 6th November 2008........
Very quiet today. Nothing at all on 10 metres. Heard a very weak Spanish station on 11 metres. Most likely weak Sporadic-E.
Friday 7th November 2008........
Another very quiet day. Nothing at all heard on 10 metres. On 27 MHz around noon, there were a few weak stations. One from Germany, one from France and one Spanish. There was very little activity and very little was heard at any one time. It was almost as if there was weak Sporadic-E conditions and only occasionally, it would get strong enough to allow propogation. Almost as if the footprint was very small and it would change very fast.
Saturday 8th November 2008.......
There seemed to be a good bit more activity today. Even the DX cluster had loads of spots. When I first checked, 10 metres was dead yet there were signals on 11 metres. As usual, it is very difficult to identify where these CB stations were coming from but they sounded Italian and Spanish. A CB station from Poland was also heard. Most of the signals were pretty weak, s '1' to '2'. The strongest station heard was s '5' but that was exceptional.Eventually, 10 metres opened up but the signal were a lot weaker than those on the CB band. I heard a ZS6 in Johannesburg but at best, he was 3/1. On the CW portion of the band, there was a OK/OM contest on as I heard CT1JLZ (max 419) and 7X0RY (max 419). An OK station was heard as well calling one of these stations.All of these signals were probably Sporadic-E although the ZS station was probably a combination of Sporadic-E for the first hop to the South and then F2 after that. Listening for the last few days, the band seems to open around mid-day. With the Summer Sporadic-E, it often seemed to open in the early morning or evening as well.
Sunday 9th November 2008.......
It was very poor today. Even though I could not listen at midday, both 10 and 11 metres sounded completely dead. Even the DX cluster had very few spots, especially from the UK or Northern Europe.
Monday 10th November 2008......
Nothing on 10 metres today, even the cluster seemed quiet. Down on 27 MHz, there seemed to be the typical weak signals around midday.....Italy, France? and Spain. The guy in Italy was running 400 watts!! Crazy power for what is supposed to be 'Citizen Band' radio :o( Anyway, even with his 400 watts, he was pretty weak so the band was just barely open. No big signals...just a few 3/1 to 4/1 signals.
Tuesday 11th Novenber 2008......
Today turned out to be pretty reasonable on the radio. Around 10:30am, I had a look around the CB band and there was a strong signal from someone near Paris in France, Sporadic-E without a doubt. Checked the Dxcluster...not much on 10 metres. Tuned around 28.2 MHz and starting hearing beacons...open at last!
Beacons....I heard the OE3XAC beacon (JN78sb - 1750 kms) on 28.188.15 MHz, DL0IGI beacon (JN57mt - 1460 kms) on 28.205.19 MHz and the DM0ING beacon (JN49ax - 1170 kms). All of these beacons are more or less due East (95 deg) from here. Then the band began to open up to the South-East. Next signal heard was the F5ZWE beacon (JN02tw - 1240 kms) on 28.242.9 MHz. It is a very distinctive beacon with it's slow cw and pips between messages. This turned out to be the most consistent beacon of the day making an appearance on and off for around 2 hours. Next signal heard was the DK0TEN beacon (JN47nt - 1330 kms) on 28.258.03 MHz. This was just after 11am and that was the last German signal that I heard for the day. Just as I was tuning up out of the beacon band, I came accross 2 QRSS or very slow speed beacons. The first one was I1YRB (JN33sf - 1530 kms) on 28.322.19 MHz, weak but audible when it gave it's ID at normal speeds. Almost on the same frequency (28.321.95 MHz), there was another QRSS beacon but because it was so weak and because the other beacon was so close in frequency, it was impossible to identify it. As far as I can tell....all I got were "iv....jn55v....qrss....3".
SSB......so on up to the SSB part of the band. F4FAZ was there with a big 5/9 signal from a location to the East of Marseilles. That was it...one big signal! Either no one was on or the footprint of the Sporadic-E propogation was small?
Beacons....Back down to check the beacons. Heard the EA4Q beacon (IN80wc - 1400 kms) on 28.263.0 Mhz near Madrid. Heard the F5ZUU beacon (JN24il - 1270 kms) on 28.241.62 MHz with only 5 watts from the South East of France.
DX....time to look around the cw portion of the band. Came accross a signal on 28.024 MHz....weak cw but the transmissions were very short...like a DX or contest station would be. Call sounded unusual so I knew it must be different....listened 2 to 3 times before I got the call 100%....7Q7BP in Malawi, Southern Africa!!...somewhere in the region of 8500 kms!! Even though he is not too strong, I give him a call with 100 watts...get him first call...exchange reports...7Q7 in the log!! My 1st contact on 10 metres in about 5 years ;o)
Tune around again...hear F5JLH on cw. Keep tuning...another weak cw signal...sounds unusual again and it's long! Listen a few times again to make sure....3B8DB in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean!! Give him a call...get back 'EI7??'...try again...gets it, exchange reports and 3B8DB is in the log! So maybe this CB half wave isn't so bad after all? Certainly, in the direction of 7Q7 and 3B8, the antenna is not clearing the house and is obstructed somewhat by the house itself. Without a doubt, working them on cw made the contacts possible. If it had been on SSB, I might have worked the 7Q7 but I doubt if I would have worked 3B8, the signals were just too weak for that. The unusual thing is that later when I checked my logbook, I had worked 3B8DB before on SSB on 10 metres...back in July 1988...20 years ago!! I see that back then I was using a home brew J-stick half wave so my aerials haven't improved much in that time ;o)
50 MHz....time to have a look around on 6 metres even though the CB half wave is poor on that band. Tune around...EI0SIX is there as usual....keep tuning..another signal! It's the EA3SIX beacon in JN01vo (1370 kms). Although that was the only Sporadic-E signal I heard on the band, conditions must be reasonably good if the MUF has gone as high as 50 MHz.
Back to 10m...and this period from 12:00 to 13:00 was the busiest part of the opening with the following heard.....IZ1GLX (cw), EA1ABT (ssb), F4DPT (ssb), CT1BH (ssb) and EA4GL (ssb). Eventually the signals began to fade out. Around 13:20, I found an unusual beacon.... C30P on 28.256.0 from the Principality of Andorra in the Pyrenees (JN02sm - 1280kms). I found this beacon by accident because it is very easy to miss it. It transmits for a short period giving it's ID and message and then it stops for about 1 minute....no dots, no signal, nothing! Unless you happen to be listening at the right time, you would never know it was there.
Signals slowly get weaker until the only signal left on the band is the EA3TEN beacon in JN01vo (1370kms) at around 13:40. Eventually even that fades until there is nothing left on the band. Tune down 1 MHz and there is a French station on the CB band at 5/7! Also heard over the next hour were some Spanish and Portugese stations until even these fade away.
Conclusions on todays opening...
1) The Sporadic-E started in the East and slowly moved to the South East and then South. I've seen this happen before on 6 metres during the Summer months.
2) Like the other days in November, the Sporadic-E signals seemed to peak around noon. During the Summer months, there are often 2 peaks...one in the morning and one during the evening.
3) The 7Q7 and 3B8 contacts were no doubt due to a Sporadic-E hop from Ireland to somewhere near Spain and from there via F2 to the DX stations. It really does emphasise the importance of Sporadic-E for DX contacts on 10 metres during sunspot minima. Sporadic-E allows stations at my latitude (~52 deg N) to get access to F2 propogation which is possible from Southern Europe.
4) My cw is rusty!! Ooooo... ;o)
Wednesday 12th November 2008.....
Today was in many ways almost the same as yesterday except that there were fewer signals. The CB band began to open up around 11:00 with a station in Belgium heard. Checked out the beacon band on 28 Mhz and the following beacons were heard....DL0IGI (JN57mt ), DM0ING (JN49ax) and DK0TEN (JN47nt)...all pretty weak signals. Eventually, these beacons and the activity faded away around. The band seemed closed arond 12:00 except for a single French CB station down on 27 MHz, all alone with a 5/7 signal!! It was almost as if the footprint of the Sporadic-E propogation was coming down in a small area of France and there alone.
At around 13:00, the band began to open up again with a weak Italian CB station making an appearance. Back up to check the beacons and the French beacon F5ZWE in JN02tw makes an appearance on 28.243.0 MHz. It peaks at 529, not too strong but it was still the strongest beacon heard today. It is also seems, like yesterday, to be one of the most persistent as when I check back 30 minutes later, it is still there although it was bwginning to fade at that stage. I also had a listen for the C30P beacon as it is in the same locator square. It was audible when it made it's appearance but pretty weak.
After about 13:30, the signals faded out on 10 metres but the CB band seemed to be busy with weak Spanish stations for at least another 2 hours.
Overall today, the CB band stayed open longer but the signals on 10m and 11m were a lot weaker. Yet again, all signals seemed to be due to Sporadic-E propogation.
On a side note, I also heard a CB station from near Thurles in Tipperary on tropo. His signal was around only about 4/1 but at a distance of around 100 kms, it suggests that this old CB half wave may not be so bad after all.
For the record, the solar flux was at 71 today, no real change from last week.
Thursday 13th November 2008.....
The band opened up today just after 10:00 UTC. Some CB stations from Luxembourg and Sweden were heard around 10:20. That was the first time that I had heard a Scandinavian country this month. Checked the 10 metre band also and the following beacons were heard over the next hour....OE3XAC (JN78sb), DL0IGI (JN57mt), LA4TEN (JO28wl - 1160 kms), LA5TEN (JO59jp near Oslo), DK0TEN (JN47nt), SK5AE (JO89kk) and SK0CT (JO89xk). After this (11:20), signals began to fade. It was almost as if the band had been open but the the MUF was only high enough to support propagation to 2 areas....1) the Southern part of Norway and Sweden and 2) the southern part of Germany.
11:40..the German beacon DM0ING (JN49ax) makes an appearance. The French beacon F5ZWE (JN02tw) shows up as well indicating that the band is opening towards the South-East as well.
11:50...with the exception of a few weak beacons and some weak French CB stations, both 10m and 11m sound very quiet. A beacon from North Germany is heard....DB0UM in JO73ce, only 4 watts into a vertical!
12:04....the LA4TEN beacon is still there. It has been in and out for around 90 minutes.
12:10...another French beacon, F5ZUU in JN24il with only 5 watts to a vertical, F5ZWE is still sounding well (519).
12:20...the band begins to open up further South with EA4Q (IN80wc) in Cuenca near Madrid.
12:50...the F5ZWE beacon is now peaking 549, the strongest beacon all day. Considering it is in the same locator square, I tune and wait for the Andorran beacon C30P..it appears albeit weakly.
Bands seem quiet though and the propogation moves back East again...OE3XAC (419) and DM0ING show up. On SSB, DB1NT is heard.
13:40...check the CB bands...very quiet.
13:45...F5ZWE/B is back again!! What a great little beacon! After that, things fade away until around 15:00, both 10m and 11m seem dead.
I later found an interesting map which shows most of the beacons above.
18:30...check the DX-cluster and notice that EI2IP spotted a strong PY (Brazil) station around 17:30. Would I have heard it if I was here??? I doubt it as I have a hill in that direction. I have often seen that before on 6 metres and on 10 metres....anyone here on the South coast of Ireland seem to be able to exploit openings to South America when the band appears dead. It's almost as if the signals are coming in at an extremely low angle. Any hills in the way or if you move inland, you lose access to these openings.
Friday 14th November 2008.....
Band opened up around 10:30 with some very weak CB stations on 11m. Checked 10 metres and heard a very weak beacon just below 28.2 but was unable to ID. In the next 10 minutes, I heard a CB station from France and one calling himself 20ET??? which would suggest Norway?!?! If it was, it was the only signal I heard that far North all day.
10:47...The French beacon F5ZWE/B makes an appearance with a good 529 signal. A few minutes later, C30P appears. Also heard is a weak CB pirate on 28.235 MHz :o(
11:10...EA4Q near Madrid appears with it's 5 watts into a ground plane antenna.
11:20...Spots on the DX Cluster suggest that the EA4Q beacon is been heard near Berlin and in central Italy. This would suggest that Sporadic-E region is over France and to the South of it also.
11:30...The French beacon F5ZWE/B is still there but soon fades as the propogation becomes mainly from the South.
12:00....and 12:30....the EA4 beacon is still there, by far the most consistent beacon of the day.
13:00...I see a G3 station in England spotting some CT beacons on 50 MHz. I tune around (...with my CB half wave!) and heard CT0SIX weakly in IN51ne on 50.031.7 MHz.
13:20 and 13:55...EA4Q/B still going strong at 519.
14:14....Portugese CB station heard.
Not long after that, the band begins to close. Open for about 4 hours and mainly from the South to South-East.
Saturday 15th November 2008.....
Around 10:15, I started hearing some CB signals on 11 metres, all very weak. Around 10:26, I checked the DX Cluster and noticed that EI2IP (~40 kms to my North-East) had spotted IT9BLB in Sicily on 28 MHz SSB with a 5/9 signal at 10:06! I listened on this frequency (~10:28) and I could hear a very weak signal. Did the signal fade?....or was it that I just wasn't hearing it??? When I first saw the spot, I thought....Sicily on 10m at 5/9 = F2 propogation. But, it didn't fit.......1) Solar flux is down around 70 anddirect F2 from this latitude is unlikely 2) If there was F2, I'd have expected something further away, out around the 3,500 to 4,000 kms mark like TA or 5B4. Sicily is about 2,400 kms from here and angle of radiation for F2 propogation would be around 8 degrees. Most of the signals that I have been hearing recently on Sporadic-E are around 1,500 kms away which would suggest that they are coming in around 4 degrees. How come I wasn't hearing signals at 8 degrees elevation???
So, I had a look at the map again...the North-West corner of Sicily might be at the limit of 1 hop Sporadic-E. Checked out IT9BLB on the net and sure enough, he was located in Palermo on the North West corner of Sicily!! The signal that EI2IP had heard was practically near the limit of 1 hop Sporadic-E. It was coming in at an extremely low angle, probably 1 degree or less. Perhaps the signal had faded by the time I tuned in???........but I doubt if I would have heard it anywhere near as well with a vertical half wave only 4 metres above ground level and with obstructions in that direction.
It's a good reminder that 10 metres is almost in a way, the lowest VHF band. You have to get those aerials up high and in the clear so that you will have a low angle of radiation. To work serious DX on 10m, you need to exploit those low angle signals.
So, back to today...12:07...heard some Spanish CB stations on 11 metres. Overall, just bits and pieces but nothing consistent. I saw a G station spotting V51AS (Namibia) on 28 MHz SSB. I listened....I could hear something extremely weak, maybe 2/1 max. Then all of a sudden he came out of the noise...4/1 calling QRZ...I called him...nothing...and I mean nothing, he was gone. Did he turn off?? It was strange how he got so strong all of a sudden.
I began to wonder if it might not be a meteor burst that enhanced his signal between EI and say EA and then on to the F2 propogation? I know the Leonids meteor shower is supposed to peak next Monday and there are supposed to be increasing number of meteors from the 14th onwards. To check the meteor theory, I tuned to the frequency of the LA4TEN beacon that was a nice signal 2 days ago. I had heard nothing that far North today and I might hear some bursts. As soon as I tuned in though at 13:42, there it was! Very weak, about 2/1 but I got enough parts of the call for a positive ID. Meteor Scatter or Sporadic-E??? Who knows...
Certainly down on the CB bands today, I have heard bursts of signals which sound English and sound like they might be meteor scatter. Next Monday might be interesting...
Sunday 16th November 2008.....
I was missing for a lot of today. I see that an EI station spotted V51AS on 28 MHz cw so there must have been some Sporadic-E and F2 about to the South.
Monday 17th November 2008.....
First a general report....I had the radio on in the background and as far as I could tell there was no Sporadic-E all day. The DX Cluster was also very quiet.
Since today was supposed to be the peak for the Leonids Meteor shower, I had a listen this morning for 1 hour between 08:35 and 09:35 on 28.215.1 MHz for the GB3RAL beacon. I heard several pings and a very long burst but the signals were very weak and I was not able to get a positive ID. I sent an e-mail to someone about it so hopefully they can confirm what I heard.
Down on the CB bands around 10:00, I heard some evidence of some nice meteor scatter signals. One CB station in Cambridgeshire (5/7) mentioned that conditions were "very sporadic" ;o)....in other words, the signals were up and down. Also heard on 27 MHz ssb was someone mobile (5/3) on the M25 around London. I presume most of the CB stations just thought it was 'good skip conditions' without realising that their signals were coming off meteor trails left in the upper atmosphere!! I heard a few French CB stations as well but most were of short duration. Probably due to meteor scatter rather than Sporadic-E.
Tuesday 18th November 2008.....
Today was pretty dead on 10 and 11 metres. I heard bits of European signals on 11 metres but nothing much. I listened for the GB3RAL beacon again this morning and heard a few pings.
Wednesday 19th November 2008....
Real sunspot minimum stuff where 10 metres sounds more like 2 metres than a HF band. Bit's of Europeans heard on 11 metres. I heard one strong Swiss SB station but when I scanned around...nothing! Might have been just a meteor burst.
Thursday 20th November 2008....
Even quieter than yesterday.
Friday 21st November 2008....
Missed today. There were a few spots on the cluster for English stations so maybe the 10 metre band was open?
Saturday 22nd November 2008....
Weak opening for about 30 minutes around 11:30. Heard a few CB stations on 27 MHz, sounded French. On 10 metres, the band was open from here (Cork - IO51) to the South of France. Heard F5ZWE/B and C30P in JN02. Max 419.
Sunday 23rd November 2008...
I missed today. However I noticed that on the DX Cluster, Robbie EI2IP who is about 40 kms away had spotted several beacons in LA, SM, DL, OK. Even though I am only using a half wave, it's probably safe to say that I would probably have heard something and should count this day as an active one.
Monday 24th November 2008...
Missed today. Cluster looked pretty dead anyway.
Tuesday 25th November 2008...
Another dead day...
Wednesday 26th November 2008...
Very short opening today. 10 metres and 11 metres opened for about 30 minutes.
10:55....heard some weak CB stations in North France and Poland on 27 MHz.
11:04....heard the German beacon DB0UM in JO73ce on 28.278.7 MHz. Pretty weak, maybe 419 max. The mid point of this path was somewhere over ON/PA (Belgium/Netherlands). What was interesting was that a few minutes late, F5TMJ in the South of France spotted the SK5AE beacon in Sweden. The mid point for his path was roughly the same as mine. You often get this on 6m metres and 2 metres where there is one Sporadic-E hot spot and the propogation paths resulting from it are like spokes of a wheel.
11:25...bands dead again.
Thursday 27th November 2008...
Turned on at 10:00 and there was a weak opening in progress. Judging by the DX Cluster, it wasn't open too long anyway beforehand, maybe 20 minutes?
10:00 Heard weak Italian CB stations on 27 MHz.
10:19 Hearing weak French CB
10:40 Hearing the French beacon F5ZUU on 28.241.4 MHz. Signal is weak...perhaps 319 to 419 max.
11:15 Band has closed again. Nothing on 27 or 28 MHz.
The opening today was typical of what I have heard this month....band opens for maybe 2 hours or so, signals are weak. However, it was a bit unusual in that it seemed to open earlier than usual.
Friday 28th November 2008...
Dead quiet today.
Saturday 29th November 2008...
Today was the first day of the CQWW CW contest. It's amazing that when there are high powered stations constantly transmitting, every possible propogation path shows up. As a result, today was unusual in that while the CB band appeared dead, 10 metres sprung to life. Perhaps 'sprung' is a bit of an over exageration in that what was spotted on the DX Cluster made it obvious the limitations of using a CB half wave vertical antenna at only 4 metres above ground level.
11:25...The band opened for me with some Sporadic-E to the South. The Spanish contest station EE2W was heard very weakly, perhaps 419 max. It was obvious from the cluster that with a better antenna at a greater height, I would have heard a lot more.
12:10...The French beacon F5ZUU in JN24 was heard at around 319. At much the same time, EI2IP about 40 kms spotted a Portugese beacon at 599. Nothing audible here. South is a direction in which my local hill begins to get nasty. Again, more height on the antenna would have made a big difference.
Other than that, I was really hearing nothing other than the contest station 3X5A buried in the noise. From the snippets I was getting, I could tell that he was not too busy with plenty of CQ Contest calls. Just left the rig on the frequency while I worked away on something else until about 12:29, he popped up out of the noise to a 549. Quick call, quick exchange and 3X5A was in the log. And sure enough, he started to fade back down into the noise again. Other than that, nothing else was heard although stuff was getting spotted on the DX Cluster by EI and G stations. Todays lesson.......like 6 metres, you really need a beam and /or a good site to fully exploit openings on the band.
Sunday 30th December 2008...
I listened during the morning until 12:00. Even though the contest was in full blast, there wasn't a signal here on 28 MHz. Even the cluster didn't suggest that the band was open anywhere else in the UK or Ireland. When I checked again around 16:00, the cluster suggested that the band had opened during the early afternoon. Would I have heard anything???
The EI3EBB 'antenna farm'. Diamond X510 on the left and a Watson 2000 on the right.
Adjusting the 50 MHz radial on the Watson 2000
50 MHz......It has 3 ground planes with one of them adjustable for tuning the antenna to 50 MHz. The initial test showed that the VSWR was lowest up around 51 MHz. After adjusting the radial for maximum lenght, the lowest VSWR was at 50.7 MHz. The VSWR plot was as follows...
The 1:1.5 VSWR bandwidth seems to be around 0.9 MHz and the 1:2 VSWR bandwidth was 1.5 MHz. The final result is that the VSWR for the SSB portion of the band is 1:1.4 to 1.6 which should be ok. It's not that we had much choice when it came to tuning anyway because if we had adjusted it any further, the radial would have fallen out!
Updated 25th Nov 2008......We did a few tests by going mobile around the roads near EI3EBB's location. We used a loaded quarter wave magmount on the roof of the car and an IC706 parked on 50.052 MHz CW. Now, the tests were a bit subjective as we had ignition noise, noise from the car's electronics and there was some fading on the signal as well. Yet, we still got a good feel for what could be heard.
Area 1) Around EI3EBB's location which is about 500 metres back from the brow of the hill and at ground level, would be around 5 metres lower. The signal was very weak, maybe 319, 419 max.
Area 2) Near the peaks of the local hills (~2-3kms away, 40m higher and 15m higher) to the East and West of EI3EBB. Here the beacon was around 539, nice solid signal and a lot stronger than with the Watson 2000 at EI3EBB's place. (On the hill to the East, the signal did not really get strong until we cleared the trees)
Area 3) The strongest signals by far were along the Northern slopes of the Eastern hill. The signal peaked around 559 here, amazingly strong for a beacon that was around 165 kms away. I have seen this with VHF signals before where the signals on the downward slope of a hill in the direction of which the signals are coming are often stronger than at the top.
Conclusions....??? Still nothing definite. We established that the Knockmealdown mountains (direction of EI0SIX) are visible from the Watson 2000 on the roof. If there is any 'local' high ground in the way, it's not much. We tried just holding the magmount out a skylight on the roof so that it was close to the height of the Watson and doing some tests by comparing it to the Watson with a coax switch. We could hear the beacon a little bit better with the Watson. So, in other words, we were hearing the beacon 'a bit' better on what is supposed to be a resonant half wave antenna than a loaded quarter wave with no ground plane. Perhaps it's a bit early to come to any firm conclusion on the Watson 2000 but for the moment, on 6 metres at least, there is certainly no 'wow' factor.
Solar Flux figures (Red line) for May 2008 to Nov 2008. More or less at or just below 70.