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 Éireann, 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.