Thursday, July 25, 2019

Unusual 50 MHz opening from Australia to Europe - Wed 24th July 2019

Over the last few weeks, there have been multiple openings from Europe to Japan at 50 MHz as stations make use of digital modes like FT8 to dig weak signals out of the noise. Most of these contacts are in the region of 9,000 to 10,000 kms which suggest multi-hop Sporadic-E was the likely propagation mode.

On Wednesday the 24th of July 2019, there was a very unusual opening on 50 MHz between Europe and New South Wales in SE Australia.

Here are some of the send/receive reports from PSK Reporter for the Australian stations on the 50 MHz band...


A successful FT8 contact was made between VK3ZL and EI3KD in Ireland, a distance of 17,375 kms. This seems to have been the longest contact of the day.





The opening from Europe to SE Australia seemed to be from about 07:09 UTC to about 08:20 UTC.

The graphic below shows where the sun was shining at 07:30 UTC.

The opening seemed to coincide with sunset in SE Australia.

Some notes....
1) Solar..... The solar flux was way down at 67, the sunspot number was zero and there was no sign of any type of enhancement due to a flare. It's hard to imagine there was any normal type F2 propagation which might be seen around the peak of the sunspot cycle.

2) Japan..... The opening from Europe to Australia seemed to coincide with an opening from Europe to Japan. S57RR in Slovenia was on the send/receive list for five of the six VK3 stations and this is what the 6m map was like for him on the 24th...

3) Multi-hop Sporadic-E ???.... The distances worked from Europe to Australia were in the region of 16,000 to 17,400 kms. If it was simple multi-hop Sporadic E, it would require something like eight to nine hops. What are the chances of this many Sporadic-E hops? I find it hard to believe it's possible.

4) Winter..... It's worth noting that it's winter in Australia and this is not their Sporadic-E season. There seems to be no sign that the VK3 stations were hearing any other stations via Sporadic-E, just the opening to Europe.

Theory?...... Just a thought and I'm putting it out there for others to consider. Is it possible there was TEP (Transequatorial propagation) opening from SE Australia to an area SE of Japan and then became skewed via Sporadic-E? The multi-hop Sporadic-E opening from Europe also got to this region in the Pacific?

It's possible the TEP path may have been a bit more westerly from Australia to an area closer to China.

Perhaps it's grasping at straws for an explanation but I find it just as feasible as expecting 8-9 Sporadic-E hops to line up in a row at 50 MHz for the shorter direct path.

The key difference between the two paths would of course be if the beam headings for all parties were the most direct short path ones or if they were skewed. Unless someone is using a long Yagi, it may not be so obvious at 50 MHz.

All good material for debate of course but probably impossible to prove one way or the other.

Addendum : See message below from Brian, VK3BD (Added 12th Aug 2019)...

"It has taken a while to find this URL for you but given your blog I think you will find the work of Andrew, VK3OE, very interesting:  

There are some very clever and dedicated amateurs about!

With regard to the opening of 24 July 2019, I can report that earlier in the day I received S6 signals from Chinese TV 0n 49.750 MHz.  I have never seen the signals so strong- usually not even registering on the S meter on those rare occassions that they are there. I was pointing at 330 degrees at the time.

My participation in the "event" of 24 July started with reception of this DK8NE transmission:  

062130 -17 0.5 2317 ~ DL2JAA DK8NE -05 •Germany

I immediately posted the information on ( which is a good site to look at if you want to see what we in VK are doing in real time) and sent DK8NE an email.

It was clear there was something special happening when I decoded these transmissions:

065330 -12 0.5 2317 ~ CQ VK DK8NE JO50 •Germany

----- 24.07.19 06:55:14 UTC ----------- 6m ----

065500 -13 0.5 2317 ~ CQ VK DK8NE JO50 •Germany

----- 24.07.19 06:55:44 UTC ----------- 6m ----

065530 -10 0.5 2317 ~ CQ VK DK8NE JO50 •Germany

----- 24.07.19 06:56:14 UTC ----------- 6m ----

065600 -12 0.5 2317 ~ CQ VK DK8NE JO50 •Germany

----- 24.07.19 06:56:44 UTC ----------- 6m ----

065630 -15 0.5 2316 ~ CQ VK DK8NE JO50 •Germany

----- 24.07.19 06:57:15 UTC ----------- 6m ----

065700 -21 0.5 2316 ~ CQ VK DK8NE JO50 •Germany

----- 24.07.19 06:58:14 UTC ----------- 6m ----

065800 -19 0.5 2317 ~ CQ VK DK8NE JO50 •Germany

I sent him another email!

As you can see from the PSKR record, I decoded DK8NE, HA8CE, F4BKV, F6ECI, HB9FAR, S57RR and S50A.  All of these decodes came while I was pointing at 315 degrees.
The event ended for me with my last reception of S57RR -15 dB at 082030Z.

Sadly, I didn't get decoded in Eu at all but as my station only runs 50 watts perhaps not too surprising. I did bump up the output to 100 watts for a short time but still to no avail. 
Ulrich, DK8NE, got back to me after the event to say that he had finally managed to complete a contact with VK3ZYC but that he had to do it with JT65.

During the course of the opening I went back to 330 degrees and checked for the 49.75 carriers; nothing.  Nor were our two Northern Territory 6 metre beacons (VK8RAS, VK8VF) in evidence which I can usually receive very weakly on 330 degrees if there is Es.

So I have no idea what the propagation mode was.  All I can say is that my antenna, an 8 element LFA based on the ideas of G0KSC,  is quite directional and the signals came from 315 Degrees.  
You may also be interested to read that this was not the only opening from VK3 into Eu this winter solstice.  I decoded UR0MC on 2 July 2019 and a number of us in VK3 decoded a couple of Slovenia stations on 22 July 2019.

My best guess, based on VK3OE's previously published chirp radar activities and the absence of anything from the VK8 repeaters, is that the VK3 end was not Es.

If you ever manage to find something conclusive about propagation on the day please let me know.





Anonymous said...

Hi John, congratulations on working Arie VK3ZL for an amazing distance -in such unexpted condx.- about 2hrs of EU in VK3 at bottom of everything it seems real magic-hi.
I only worked Bert S57RR but had many decodes from S50A, HA8CE, HB9FAR, F6ECI, and had several other fainter traces that didn't decode. EU here is worst direction with rising dirt and 100' + trees/bush and only about 50m ASL.
I don't recall any indicators during the opening, however I recorded the 49's vid-(several carriers) earlier 0335 @ s2-4 and some E's to ZL, VK4 earlier that day -so not completely dead. I theorised that maybe it was somehow connected to the small CME & coronal hole combination &-K5 a week or so before. I only thought of that as I remember in the old SUNSPOT days I have observed that it would be anything up to a week after an significant event before the 'real DX' - long haul stuff happened. I Know this is a long shot considering where we are at present but then we now have far more sensitive modes and better gear at hand- who knows- just got to keep looking and trying hi, best regards and GL, Norm VK3DUT

John, EI7GL said...

Thanks for the info Norm

Just to clarify that it was EI3KD who made that contact with VK3ZL, not me.

It's a bit of a puzzle for sure, it's hard to accept the standard explanation of it just being 'multi-hop Sp-E'.

FT8 is certainly opening up paths that weren't so obvious in the past.

John, EI7GL

Anonymous said...

IMO..It's caused from E's are at the time into Nth Australia which then produced tilting path into normal TEP Zone for southern Stns .. Heard VK3's up here in Nth QLD AU at the time .Often hear lower VKs working across TEP Zone when the E's are around up here in Nth AU.Not B/S ..The angle of the dangle is good for them via the Es . Goes right over the top of me .Only got to have a similar connection in Nth Hemi too. Teleport via E's into the TEP Zone. Hi Hi. de Lloyd VK4FP .

Photon said...

I don't comment on what the path was, but we do know that there is a teleconnection between N and S hemispheres at mesospheric height (D-E layer type height). This is essentially a conveyor belt running at 85km, with high velocities of up to 400m per second. Ionised and otherwise charged regions are travelling N to S, and must surely explain at least part of the path - possibly that suggested TEP portion?


John, EI7GL said...

Ref Photo - MW1CFN : That's interesting John, I didn't know of that connection between the poles.

This is a link to the video if anyone wants to watch...

CO2JA said...

I wouldn't reject the possibility of chordal hops for the longer part of the path, if no others in between the extremes were heard. Seems that the new tricks, like FT8 are making propagation mode linking a viable option.

Anonymous said...

I favour your theory of sporadic E and TEP mix. That morning i noticed that the MUF went exceptionally high and bands were open all day.the E cloud was very large. I even worked several stations on 4m at maximum single hop distance. However when i was in UK circa 1989(max sunspot) we often worked VK on SSB in that precise time frame starting at 07:30 UTC. which was F2 propergation. So im going to throw in a curve ball here that with the advent of FT8 there is a F2 layer mildly energised in some manor that we dont understand,that will allow FT8 working but not enough for SSB. As the sporadic E was so intense that day maybe some how it ionised the F2 layer.

Jim, W2SM said...

This reminds me of a contact I had with Bob, ZL1RS on 10 December 2012 at 0043 for a distance of 14,169 Km. No other contacts or stations around and not usually any e activity for us at that time of the year. This was on cw with solid 579 both ways. I had to email Bob to confirm because I figured it was a pirate!

And that folks, is why they call it the magic band!



Mark, EI3KD said...

Hi John, thanks for the excellent write-up, as usual :)

I have a few comments:

Firstly, I'm sure that at least the majority of this path was E-layer propagation. The area of doubt would be where the path crossed the geomagnetic equator, but I wouldn't rule that out as Es either. Yes, nine "hops" is extremely (and demonstrably!) rare but theoretically possible.

There was no "smearing" of the FT8 signal; it was absolutely visually pure on the waterfall. I'm not sure that anything can be inferred from that, but it *may* indicate that the F-layer wasn't involved? I regret not having the .wav files saved for this QSO for further analysis - it's impossible to leave that option on all the time (too much disk space is used) and things happened too quickly to turn the option on - my priority was to get the QSO completed rather than faff with menu options...

The opening to VK3 did not coincide here with signals from JA or BY, although I did hear and QSO those somewhat later, more than an hour in fact. As I remember it, the only real signs I saw beforehand were a very few "first hop" signals, quite unremarkable. I think that suggests the path was direct (as per my antenna heading, 60 degrees) and over areas of low or zero activity. There's no evidence the VK3 path passed over JA, although there's no evidence it passed over anywhere else either :)

Finally, it's known that there are two Es seasons each year: A major summer season; and also a minor winter season, occurring at the same time in opposing hemispheres. I believe this opening was a serendipitous coincidence of those two seasons, as rare as you like!

73, Mark EI3KD

Anonymous said...

The two way heard VK3ZL to EI3KD was almost certainly nEs and nothing else. I make this claim on the basis that my backscatter radar work (See DUBUS.ORG and download the sample copy, article pp29-38) clearly shows nEs transiting the equator, Fig 5. at around 6,000 to 7000km. The nEs mode is apparent at the summer and winter solstices in both hemispheres. I currently hold the VK 6m digital record 2 way confirmed with JT65 at 15,740km to N8JX. The signals being heard from Europe and N/S America on 6m using FT8 just go to show what is possible in the future, more awareness and planning will surley see many more nEs 6m long distance contacts.