Friday, February 28, 2020

Using the Yaesu FT-650 on the new 40 MHz band (8-metres)

The Yaesu FT-650 transceiver was manufactured in the 1990's and operated on the 24 MHz, 28 MHz and 50 MHz bands (12, 10 & 6m).

With an output power of 100 watts on all three bands, it was an impressive radio in its day and today it still compares well in terms of performance to some of the newer all band HF& 6m radios.

Lloyd, EI7HBB recently acquired one of these radios and he confirms that it can be 'widebanded' to operate on the new 40 MHz (8-metre) band with the full 100 watts. According to Lloyd, the radio can be made to operate outside the usual 12,10 & 6m bands by pushing three buttons at the same time.

Rear of the radio shown with the optional internal mains power supply
The current Irish amateur radio allocation at 40 MHz and 60 MHz allows a maximum output power of 50 watts PEP (17dBW).

More info about the 40 MHz band on the blog can be seen HERE

The specs of the radio are shown below...

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Opening to India on 28 MHz? - Tues 25th Feb 2020

The map above shows the FT8 signals that I heard on 28 MHz on Tuesday the 25th of February 2020. The big suprise was the signal from VU2PTT India but was it real?

It was a really unusual signal to hear. First off, here are the decodes that I received...

093045 -16 -0.3 1864 ~  CQ VU2PTT MK82
093115 -19 -0.3 1864 ~  CQ VU2PTT MK82
093145 -17 -0.3 1865 ~  CQ VU2PTT MK82
093215 -20 -0.2 1865 ~  CQ VU2PTT MK82
093330 -18 -0.3 1867 ~  CQ VU2PTT MK82
093400 -15 -0.3 1868 ~  CQ VU2PTT MK82
093500 -16 -0.3 1869 ~  CQ VU2PTT MK82

At this time in the morning, it was the only signal that I heard on 28 MHz. What was also unusual was that according to PSKReporter, no-one else reported VU2PTT on 28 MHz. If the signal is genuine then he called CQ on FT8 on 28MHz and I was the only person to hear him.

If the signal was fake then I would have expected others to have heard the fake signal also.

I could see that he was on 14 MHz, 18 MHz and 21 MHz also today so at least I know he was active.

My intuition is that the signal was genuine and it was a double hop F2 signal from Karnataka, India, a distance of about 8,600kms.

I was wondering if the signal was related to sunset in India and it wasn't. Karnataka is 5h 30m ahead of UTC so 09:30 UTC here is 15:00 in India i.e. in the middle of the afternoon.

Some Sporadic-E signals appeared on the band around 14:15 UTC and lasted until about 19:40 UTC. A list of stations heard is shown below. The one interesting one is PY5VB in Brazil which didn't appear on the PSK Reporter page for me. Maybe the signal from India was genuine after all.

The Solar Flux today was 71 which is pretty much rock bottom of the sunspot cycle.

141415  -5 -0.0 2143 ~  CQ CT1ADT IM57
162300 -16 -0.1  879 ~  CQ EA7/LA9DL
162330 -16  0.0  734 ~  CQ EA4AGI IN80
162400   2  0.3  733 ~  CQ EA4AGI IN80
163745  -3 -0.0  849 ~  CQ EA4GYW IN80
170200 -14 -0.1 1487 ~  CQ EA7JXA IM67
171130 -15 -0.1 1443 ~  G4FVZ PY5VB RR73
180130  14 -0.2 1278 ~  F4BVK CT1IW IM58
180930 -11 -0.2  579 ~  CQ EA5AHQ IM99
182300  -5 -0.2 2213 ~  F4BVK EA1CCM IN52
184745  -9  0.1 1685 ~  CQ CT1ETL IM58
184930 -18 -0.3  687 ~  CQ CT1CEM IM58
190400  -4 -0.3 2200 ~  CQ EA7JXZ IM77
190830   1 -0.3  606 ~  CQ CT1HMN IM58

Friday, February 21, 2020

Opening to Mali on 28 MHz - Fri 21st Feb 2020

It was a pretty quiet day with just a few FT8 signals heard on the band. The most interesting signal was TZ4AM from Mali.

104430 -13 -0.2 1261 ~  CQ MM3NRX IO86
113200 -17 -0.3 1156 ~  PD0RHX PD1WLM JO21
115630 -12  0.3  552 ~  CQ F5NBX JN05
115700 -12  0.3  552 ~  CQ F5NBX JN05
115730 -13  0.3  552 ~  CQ F5NBX JN05
131030 -17 -0.6 1155 ~  CT1APN TZ4AM 73
131130  -9 -0.6 1439 ~  EB3JT TZ4AM RR73
131200 -16 -0.6 1233 ~  HB9ICC TZ4AM -14
131300 -17 -0.6 1233 ~  CQ TZ4AM IK52

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Numbers stations on the short wave bands

My first encounter with a numbers station was many moons ago while I was tuning across the short wave bands on a very old radio. I came across an unidentified station where a woman was reading out a string of numbers in German. Needless to say, I had no idea at the time what it meant or what its purpose was.

This video written, researched and presented by Paul Shillito on his Curious Droid YouTube channel explains what numbers stations were and what they were used for.

1) Additional info on current numbers stations...

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

RTE video about the Lough Erne Radio Rally in 1990

This might be a trip down memory lane for some. This video clip from RTE is about the Lough Erne Radio Rally in Enniskillen back in 1990.

600 amateur radio enthusiasts from all over Ireland have gathered in Enniskillen, county Fermanagh for the ninth annual Lough Erne Radio Rally. The rally is an opportunity for many to put faces to names and radio call signs. Here ‘ham radio’ radio enthusiasts can swap stories and experiences. The event also offers the chance to buy radio equipment that is not normally available in the shops. 

Reporter Andrew Kelly meets enthusiasts Alec McKeown (GI1RBI), Phil Cantwell (EI9P) and Joe Maguire (GI4NRE) who share their experiences of using radio to contact people throughout the world.

An RTÉ News report by Andrew Kelly broadcast on 9 April 1990.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Opening to South Africa on 28 MHz - Mon 17th Feb 2020

Things have been very quiet here on the radio front of late. With the recent storms of Ciara and Dennis passing over, I lowered my vertical antenna for 28 MHz to avoid any damage.

On Monday the 17th of February, I put the antenna back up again as Storm Dennis moved away and I heard just one station - ZS6BUN in South Africa.

There was no sign of any Sporadic-E signals from Europe, just ZS6BUN on his own with about 4 decodes.

The Solar Flux was down at 71 with no visible sunspots on the sun. We are still well and truly in the solar minimum and I think it's going to take another six months before we see any real change.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

NASA Space Probe finds Sporadic-E on the planet Mars

NASA’s MAVEN Explores Mars to Understand Radio Interference at Earth

From a NASA press release... NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft has discovered “layers” and “rifts” in the electrically charged part of the upper atmosphere (the ionosphere) of Mars. The phenomenon is very common at Earth and causes unpredictable disruptions to radio communications. However, we do not fully understand them because they form at altitudes that are very difficult to explore at Earth. The unexpected discovery by MAVEN shows that Mars is a unique laboratory to explore and better understand this highly disruptive phenomenon.

“The layers are so close above all our heads at Earth, and can be detected by anyone with a radio, but they are still quite mysterious,” says Glyn Collinson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of a paper on this research appearing February 3 in Nature Astronomy. “Who would have thought one of the best ways to understand them is to launch a satellite 300 million miles to Mars?”

At Earth, the layers form at an altitude of about 60 miles (approximately 100km) where the air is too thin for an aircraft to fly, but too thick for any satellite to orbit. The only way to reach them is with a rocket, but these missions last only tens of minutes before falling back to Earth. “We’ve known they exist for over 80 years, but we know so little about what goes on inside them, because no satellite can get low enough to reach the layers,” says Collinson, “at least, no satellite at Earth”.

At Mars, spacecraft such as MAVEN can orbit at lower altitudes and can sample these features directly. MAVEN carries several scientific instruments that measure plasmas in the atmosphere and space around Mars. Recent measurements from one of these instruments detected unexpected sudden spikes in the abundance of plasma as it flew through the Martian ionosphere. Joe Grebowsky, former MAVEN project scientist at NASA Goddard, immediately recognized the spike from his previous experience with rocket flights through the layers at Earth. Not only had MAVEN discovered that such layers can occur at other planets than Earth, but the new results reveal that Mars offers what Earth cannot, a place where we can reliably explore these layers with satellites.

“The low altitudes observable by MAVEN will fill in a great gap in our understanding of this region on both Mars and Earth, with really significant discoveries to be had,” says Grebowsky, a co-author on the paper.

MAVEN observations are already overturning many of our existing ideas about the phenomena: MAVEN has discovered that the layers also have a mirror-opposite, a “rift”, where plasma is less abundant. The existence of such “rifts” in nature was completely unknown before their discovery at Mars by MAVEN, and overturns existing scientific models which say they cannot form. Additionally, unlike at Earth where the layers are short-lived and unpredictable, the Martian layers are surprisingly long-lived and persistent.

Press Release

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

BBC podcast about the Solar Wind

The Solar Wind is constantly streaming out from the Sun and can have a huge impact on radio propagation.

The In Our Time programme on BBC Radio 4 is hosted by Melvyn Bragg and covers various topics with a panel of experts. Recently they covered the Solar Wind.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the phenomenon behind the auroras at Earth's poles, the stream of charged particles spreading out from the Sun to the border of the solar system.

The 55 minute podcast can be heard here...

Anyone who has an interest in radio propagation or in astronomy should find it interesting.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Lone signal from South Africa heard on 28 MHz - Tues 4th Feb 2020

The last two days on 28 MHz have been very poor.

Mon 3rd Feb 2020 - This was was unusual because I didn't hear one single FT8 signal on 28 MHz for the whole day. I nearly always hear something every day but Monday the 3rd was a complete blank.

Tues 4th Feb 2020 - Due to a Windows update, I didn't start listening until about 12 noon but I'm not sure if I missed much anyway.

Just before 13:00, I heard one lone signal from South Africa.

These were the decodes of the day...

124915 -10  1.2 1782 ~  CQ ZS6BUN KG43
124945 -10  1.2 1780 ~  CQ ZS6BUN KG43
125000 -12  1.5 1364 ~  CQ EC7ZR IM77
125315 -17  1.2 1765 ~  ZS5ZP ZS6BUN -15
125345 -20  1.2 1764 ~  ZS5ZP ZS6BUN RR73

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Amateur Radio numbers in Germany continue to decline in 2019

At the end of 2019, there were 63,070 amateur radio licence permits in Germany, a drop of 1,406 or 2.2% on the figure of 64,476 for 2018.

As can be seen from the chart above, the numbers have been in decline for some time and are down about 12% in the last decade.

The chart below shows the number of people taking the amateur licence test every year.

Even allowing for a high pass rate, the numbers are well below what is needed to stop the overall decline.

As one of the largest countries in Europe, the figures from Germany are significant and are probably reflect what is happening in other European countries as well.

1) Stats from Germany

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sporadic-E on 28 MHz - Sat 1st Feb 2020

After a very quiet week, there was a modest Sporadic-E opening on 28 MHz on Saturday the 1st of February 2020. In total, 36 stations in 8 countries were heard.

There was also a shorter opening to Germany and Poland on Friday the 31st of January but it was hardly worth mentioning.

The solar flux is at 74 which is still really too low to allow any kind of F2 propagation on 28 MHz at this latitude.