Saturday, November 28, 2020

5400km TEP opening on 144 MHz between Argentina and the island of Aruba - Nov 2020

In two recent posts, I covered some recent 144 MHz TEP openings from Guadeloupe to Brazil during October 2020 and from  Curacao to Argentina in early November. 

P41E on the island of Aruba has been also been busy during the month of November 2020 and has worked several stations in Argentina via TEP.

One of the longest contacts was with LU2EPO with a claimed distance of an impressive 5449 kms.

In the graphic above, the geomagnetic equator is shown in Purple. Both P41E and the LU stations are equidistant from it and are also at right angles to it, both factors which are important at 144 MHz.

With Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP), zones of high ionization occur either side of the geomagnetic equator in the F layer of the ionosphere. What makes the mode so interesting is that it can allow propagation on the VHF bands from 50 MHz to 144 MHz. As the zones of ionization is roughly 400kms above ground level, the propagation paths achieved are in the region of 4000 to 5000 kms, much greater than what might be usual with Sporadic-E.

Here are a selection of videos showing the contacts made during the month of November 2020...

Contact with LU4FW on SSB...

Contact with LU3FCI and great to see the vintage Yaesu FT-480R in action! ...

Contact with LU3FCI...

P41E was using 100 watts into a 13-element Cushcraft Yagi.

* * *

Addendum: Thanks to Etienne, P41E for sending on the following information.

This is a photo of the antennas used for 144 MHz and 50 MHz

P41E is using an old an old Yaesu FT-767GX and a Tokyo HL160V running about 100 watts.

Etienne has very kindly sent on a log extract of what he has worked on 144 MHz from the 17th to the 28th of November 2020.

There are a total of 33 contacts in total. Looking through them, some are repeat contacts on different days or on a second mode. The log contains 17 separate stations from Argentina and most of these would have been in the 4500km plus range.

You will note that the majority of the contacts are on SSB with a few on FM and FT8.

Note also the times of the contacts which are around 00:00 to 02:00 UTC. This is around 21:00 to 23:00 for stations in Argentina and 20:00 to 22:00 for P41E in Aruba. This ties in well with Trans-Equatorial Propagation which is thought to peak at about 20:00 local time.

Solar Data... Just for reference purposes, I have included the solar data for the range of dates concerned...

#              Radio  SESC 
#              Flux  Sunspot
#  Date     10.7cm Number
2020 11 17   79     11
2020 11 18   77     11
2020 11 19   77     11
2020 11 20   82     11 
2020 11 21   85     23 
2020 11 22   88     35 
2020 11 23   96     38
2020 11 24  100     37
2020 11 25  104     40 
2020 11 26  106     43
2020 11 27  106     60
2020 11 28  110     67

a) I have a number of posts about long distance 144 MHz contacts on the blog and I 
keep a list of them here...

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sun starts to sizzle as solar flux hits 100

After a long solar minimum slumber, the sun has really begun to wake up in the last few weeks. On the 24th of November 2020, the solar flux hit 100 for the first time in about three years. The last time the solar flux was over 100 was back on the 10th of September 2017.

The photo above shows some of the sunspots on the solar disk including region 2786 which has a dark core which is slight larger than planet Earth.

The chart below shows the dramatic change in the solar flux in the last 12-months...

The biggest change in the conditions on the HF bands is that the higher bands like 10-metres are now opening. At the end of 2019 at the sunspot minimum, there were some hints of propagation but mostly on north-south paths. Fast forward to the 26th of November 2020, you can see that there was a nice opening to the USA on the 28 MHz band.

It's been a long time since I heard signals from Texas on 28 MHz via F2 propagation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Video: Guide to launching amateur radio payloads by balloon... by VE3KLX


At the virtual Radio Amateurs of Canada conference last September, teacher Kelly Shulman, VE3KLX gave an interesting presentation about launching amateur radio payloads on high altitude balloons.

As the video below highlights, high altitude balloons and scientific experiments can make amateur radio relevant to a younger generation. In terms of cost and technical ability, many schools might aspire to doing their own high altitude balloon experiments where as a cubesat / satellite would be out of the question.

1) Kelly Shulman's website...

Monday, November 23, 2020

Video: 6m FT8 DXing... by VE3VN

The Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) held their annual conference online this year and as part of the event, there was a talk by Ron Schwartz on FT8 DXing on the 50 MHz band.

The 64-minute video is shown below...

There is some interference and dropouts in the presentation during the first 28-minutes but the second half is much better.

This video gives an interesting perspective of what DXing on 6m looks like from a Canadian perspective and it should be of interest to anyone thinking of getting going on the 50 MHz band.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Radio amateurs in the UK unlikely to get 40 MHz allocation


Ofcom is the licensing authority for the radio spectrum in the UK and in a response to an informal query, they indicated to the Royal Society of Great Britain (RSGB) that an allocation at 40 MHz for radio amateurs in the near future was unlikely.

In an editorial comment in the VHF/UHF column of the November 2020 issue of RadCom from the RSGB, the VHF Manager John Regnault, G4SWX wrote... "In recent years, the RSGB has informally asked Ofcom about amateur access to 40 MHz. Ofcom responded that this was not amateur radio spectrum, whilst they would agree to the continuation of the GB3RAL propagation beacon on 40 MHz, they would not agree to further beacons or general access to 40 MHz by UK amateurs."

"Readers should also note that NoV access to unused spectrum at 71 and 146MHz was granted for innovative experimentation and not more of the same (CW/SSB/FM)."

"The view expressed by Ofcom is that UK radio amateurs have adequate VHF/UHF spectrum for these traditional activities." 

The GB3RAL 40MHz beacon first went on air back in 2007 and it was only operational for a short period. The RSGB are now looking to find a new home for this 8-metre beacon and getting it operational again.

As of November 2020, just Ireland, Slovenia, Lithuania and South Africa have some sort of access to the 40MHz band.

For more information on the new 40MHz band, visit this page...

Saturday, November 21, 2020

F2 opening to the USA on 28 MHz - 20th Nov 2020

 The map below shows the FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz on Friday the 20th of November 2020.

There was evidence of some Sporadic-E to central Europe as well as F2 signals out around the 3000km mark from Greece to Russia. Even a lone signal from the west of Australia made it through.

The signals that were of real interest to me however were the ones from the south-east of the USA. This is a classic example for me of a F2 layer opening on 28 MHz. A lone VO station appeared from the 1-hop zone near Newfoundland (~3000kms) and there was a group of stations clustered around the 2-hop zone near Florida (~6000kms).

During the sunspot minimum, F2 propagation via north-south paths on the 10-metre band are always possible. As we climb out of the minimum then we should expect to see more east-west openings on the band.

From my vantage point here in Ireland, the Great-Circle path to Florida is the most southerly of the east-west openings to the USA and it would be the first area I would expect to hear with a F2 layer opening on 10-metres.

The solar-flux on the 20th of November 2020 was around the 80 mark as opposed to say 67 around the time of sunspot minimum. We still have some way to go before we get F2 openings from NW Europe to say Japan or California on 28 MHz but at least we're on the way up.

I'd suspect that the conditions on 28 MHz in 12-months time in November 2021 should be dramatically better than now. Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

RSGB PSC 28 MHz Propagation Study - Nov 2020


In this months RADCOM magazine from the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB), there was an interesting news article about a new propagation study on the 10-metre amateur radio band. 

The RSGB Propagation Studies Committee are interested in looking at the modes of propagation responsible for signals in the 150km to 800km range.

For example, the map below shows some of the FT8 signals I heard on the 28 MHz band on the 17th of November 2020.

The signals from the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark (1000 kms plus) are easily explained as they were via Sporadic-E propagation. As the skip distance gets shorter however, it gets harder for the signal to return from the Sporadic-E layer.

Tropospheric propagation also happens at 28 MHz but it's a lot weaker than on the higher VHF bands. On the map above, the two stations about 100kms to the north of me and the station on the west coast of Wales who was about 200kms distant are probably via tropo.

The question then arises as to what is the propagation mode for the signals from England and Scotland in the 400km to 700km range? On the day, it seemed to be too close for Sporadic-E and too far for tropo.

This wasn't unique to just this particular day. It happens pretty much most of the time. Over the Summer months for example, I seem to hear G0OYQ near Hull (579 kms) on FT8 on 28 MHz practically every day.

Are these signals due to meteor scatter? Sp-E backscatter? Aircraft scatter? Tropo? The RSGB study hopes to address this.

The news article from RadCom is shown below...

* * * * *

RSGB's Propagation Studies Committee (PSC) has launched a new study to look at the mechanism behind long-distance inter-UK 10m propagation.

The study came about after PSC chairman Steve Nichols, G0KYA noticed that he was often seeing inter-UK 10m contacts on FT8 occurring between stations that were more than 100 miles apart.

"Normally you would expect 10 metres to give contacts out to about 30-50 miles at best," Steve said, "But these contacts, which are often fleeting, were over distances of about 150 miles. I also that they often appeared in the early mornings, but disappeared as the day progressed. We've had to wait for the Sporadic-E season to end to exclude Es as a possible propagation mode."

Steve said that the likely propagation mode was tropospheric, although aircraft scatter or ionospheric scattering can't be ruled out. Either way, it warrants closer examination.

To take part in the study, just log any UK stations heard via FT8 on 10 metres in excess of 100 miles, making a note of date, time, received SNR and the location of both you and the distant station. Please also include details of your antenna and any beam heading if applicable. Steve can then compare this with weather patterns and barometric information at the time. and can also be used to track contacts online. "We'd like to encourage new amateurs to take part as the reporting isn't too onerous, but the information you supply could be invaluable," Steve said. Steve can be contacted via email to psc DOT chairman AT rsgb DOT org DOT uk

Source: RadCom Nov 2020 Page 7

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Opening to Australia on 28 MHz - Sat 14th Nov 2020


As can be seen from the map above, there was a pretty good opening on 28 MHz on Saturday the 14th of November 2020. Even though I have heard the north and west of Australia earlier this week, what really stood out on the 14th was the opening to the south-east of Australia. That is the furthest part of the continent away from me and the signals have to travel roughly 17,500 kms.

In total, I heard seven Australian stations on FT8 on 28 MHz...

VK3BE 10m FT8 17540 km 09:36:14
VK2BGL 10m FT8 17482 km 09:16:44
VK3EW 10m FT8 17464 km 09:49:29
VK3FZ 10m FT8 17437 km 10:32:29
VK2LAW 10m FT8 17434 km 09:23:14
VK2NSS 10m FT8 17419 km 10:01:44
VK2JAS 10m FT8 17419 km 10:09:44

The map also shows that there was some Sporadic-E to central Europe as well as some F2 propagation to eastern Europe and Russia.

The other signals of interest for me were the three from Newfoundland.

VO1NE 10m FT8 3362 km 14:44:44
VO1AW 10m FT8 3238 km 12:44:44
VO1CH 10m FT8 3164 km 12:54:29

I'd be pretty confident that these were via F2 propagation as the distance to the west to Newfoundland is about the same as the other F2 signals from the east.

The solar flux on the 14th of November was 82 which is slowly reducing having reached a recent peak of 94 on the 6th of November.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Opening to the USA on 28 MHz - 13th Nov 2020


The conditions on 28 MHz on Friday the 13th of November 2020 weren't great but the band did open up to the USA.

There were some Sporadic-E signals from the centre of Europe but not a huge number. There were no Russian stations to the east heard on the band indicating a lack of F2 propagation in that direction.

And yet, a handful of stations from the USA were heard. Was it via multi-hop Sporadic-E? Was it via F2 layer propagation? I suspect it may have been F2 but it's impossible to tell.

The solar flux was around 85 which is certainly up on the last few months but is still pretty low in terms of allowing east-west paths on 10-metres.

Video: Introduction to Amateur Radio Satellites by AMSAT-UK


As part of their ongoing presentation series online, the Mid Ulster Amateur Radio Club recently had an interesting talk on Amateur Radio Satellites.

The talk which is given by Dave, G4DPZ is shown below. The Q&A session starts at 1:08:10.

The video gives a good introduction to the world of amateur radio satellites and should be of interest to any beginners.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

3000km plus contact made on 433 MHz from St.Helena to South Africa - 16th Oct 2020

On the 16th of October 2020, there was a remarkable 3000+ km contact made on the 70cms band between South Africa and St.Helena in the South Atlantic.

The contact at 433 MHz was made between Garry, ZD7GWM on St.Helena Island and Tom, ZS1TA in South Africa. The distance was approximately 3136 kms and what was even more amazing was that the contact was made on FM!

The power used for the contact was a modest 35 watts into a vertical antenna. This was a new distance record for a contact between South Africa and St.Helena on the 70cms band.

The mode of propagation was probably a marine duct as shown by this tropo forecast map from Pascal, F5LEN.

This 3000km+ tropo path between South Africa and St.Helena opens up on a reasonably regular basis. Back in November of 2018, there was an opening on 144 MHz as outlined in this previous post.

In June of 2020, the 2m path opened up again and the most recent opening on 2-metres was on the 23rd of September 2020 when ZD7GWM was worked by no fewer than five ZS stations... ZS1TA, ZS3CVB, ZS1CF, ZS3JPY and ZS1FC.

To put these remarkable contacts on 144 MHz and 433 MHz into context, the 3136 km distance is equivalent to the path across the North Atlantic between Newfoundland and Ireland.


Monday, November 9, 2020

Contact between Ireland and Slovenia on 40 MHz - 31st Oct 2020


While the main Sporadic-E season occurs mainly from May to July every year, there are still smaller openings at other times of the year.

One such opening occurred on the 31st of October 2020 when EI4GNB and S5/M0MPM made the most of it to complete an FT8 contact on 40 MHz.

Michael, S5/M0MPM writes... "After a few trials over the last few weeks, I heard/saw Tim's signals a few times, in FT8 and JT65, and finally we managed a contact. Tim contacted me by Whatsapp to warn about the opening, luckily I was available.

Both 6M and 10m were open between Slovenia and Ireland, and so it worked on 8m as well.

Tim was quite strong with me, but unfortunately I only had my G5RV antenna available, with a tuner.

It tunes alright on 10 and 6, so I gave it a try on 8 and the trx was happy enough (an FT857D) but my signals were quite weak with Tim, despite the 50w from my side.

Distance covered: 1730 kms (JN75PX to IO63WE) Signals were TX:+5  RX:-20. Time was 13:40z on 31Oct 2020"

40 MHz allocations... At the time of writing of this post (Nov 2020), a total of four countries have some sort of access to the 40 MHz band... Ireland (EI), Slovenia (S5), Lithuania (LY) and South Africa (ZS).

Most of the activity is centered around 40.680 MHz which is in the middle of the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) band which goes from 40.660 MHz to 40.700 MHz.

More information about the 40 MHz band can be found on my 40 MHz page...

Saturday, November 7, 2020

28 MHz wakes up as the sunspots return - Nov 2020

 After reading reports of recent activity on 28 MHz, I started listening again on FT8 on the 10-metre band to see what conditions were like.

As the PSK Reporter map above shows, there was plenty of activity on the band on Friday the 6th of November 2020.

While there was some evidence of Sporadic-E activity around Western Europe, there was plenty of evidence of F2 propagation from Russia and SE Europe. Outside of some North-South propagation to Africa and South America, it was interesting to see openings to Indonesia and Australia.

There's always something special for me about hearing Australia on 28 MHz. It's no big deal on the other HF bands but for the path to be open at 28 MHz then something must be happening.

The Sunspots Return... The improvement in conditions on 28 MHz is due to the sunspots returning and the solar flux getting up into the low 90's. The chart below from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in the USA shows the number of sunspots from 2009 to 2020 and projected out to the next peak of the solar cycle projected to be in 2025-2026.

It shows a peak back in 2014 and the minimum of the sunspot cycle in December of 2019. It also shows an increase in the sunspot number.

The chart below shows the minimum period in more detail.

The Purple line shows the smoothed sunspot number with the minimum clearly shown at the end of 2019. The Black line shows the smoother sunspot number for each month.

What is significant here is the average sunspot number for October 2020. The last time it was that high was back in October 2017, three years ago.

As we come out of the sunspot minimum, there will be peaks and dips but the overall projection is still upwards. As the solar flux increases, the higher HF bands will spring into life especially on North-South paths.

It will be interesting to see when will we get regular openings to the USA on 28 MHz from NW Europe? It will probably start with openings to Florida but it's the F2 openings to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Maine that I'd be really interested to see.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

5300km TEP opening on 144 MHz between Argentina and the Caribbean - Nov 2020

 In a recent post, I reported on a Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP) contact between Guadeloupe and the south of Brazil on 144 MHz which happened in October of 2020. The distance for that contact was in the region of 4455 kms.

At the start of November 2020, there was an even more remarkable 5312 km contact between PJ2BR in Curacao and LW2DAF in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In the graphic above, the geomagnetic equator is shown in Pink. Both PJ2BR and LW2DAF are equidistant from it and are also at right angles to it, both factors which are important at 144 MHz.

With Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP), zones of high ionization occur either side of the geomagnetic equator in the F layer of the ionosphere. What makes the mode so interesting is that it can allow propagation on the VHF bands from 50 MHz to 144 MHz. As the zones of ionization is roughly 400kms above ground level, the propagation paths achieved are in the region of 4000 to 5000 kms, much greater than what might be usual with Sporadic-E.

What's even more remarkable about this contact is that it took place on SSB! See the video below...

If you listen carefully, you can hear a warble on the audio as the SSB signal becomes distorted on the 5300 km path.

PJ2BR worked a number of other stations in Argentina on 144 MHz SSB as well including LU2EPO at 5367 kms. Other stations worked were LU7DW, LU5BE, LU1DL and LU4DIR.

The opening was on the 3rd of November 2020 at around 00:00 UTC which was at 20:00 local time on the 2nd of November for PJ2BR in Curacao.

To put the 5300km distance in perspective, it is the same as the distance between London in the UK and the city of Boston in the USA.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Galway Radio Club Newsletter - Issue 2 - Winter 2020

In November of 2019, Galway Radio Club released Issue 1 of their annual newsletter and it was read by radio amateurs all over the world. The club has now released Issue 2 which is for the Winter of 2020.


As well as covering some local news items, the newsletter covers a wide range of subjects from satellite operation to digital radio to antennas. 

The index of the newsletter is shown below...

The newsletter can be seen HERE

For more information on the Galway Radio Club, visit