Friday, December 31, 2021

12,000km opening between Australia & California - 27th Dec 2021

Monday 27th December 2021: It was interesting to see that there was a recent opening on the 50 MHz band between the SE of Australia and southern California. Unlike openings from Australia to South America, this one crossed the equator and went to North America.

There is a very active group in Australia & New Zealand using the WSPR beacon mode and on the 27th of December, VK2IJM and VK2EFM in New South Wales heard N3IZN in California.

 UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid RX rxGrid                         MHz         W SNR drift km 
2021-12-27 01:16 N3IZN DM13ji VK2IJM QF56ni 50.294549 100 -24 0 12115 
2021-12-27 00:52 N3IZN DM13ji VK2EFM QF56oq 50.294554 100 -18 0 12091

The distance was just over 12,000kms.

Propagation Mode?? The first most obvious answer is that it was multi-hop Sporadic-E but I suspect the reality is more complex that that. The signal path crosses the TEP zone around the equator so that may have had some impact. The solar flux is up around 120 and the MUF is now above 30 MHz most days. Is it reaching 50 MHz near the equatorial region?

Western Australia to Europe?? The example above was just over 12,000kms, that is the same distance from the west coast of Australia to the south-east of Europe. Are there openings between Europe and Australia on 50 MHz at the moment?

Thursday, December 30, 2021

2900km+ opening on 144 MHz across the south of Australia - Dec 2021

The southern hemisphere is currently in the middle of their summer and there is plenty of activity  on the 144 MHZ band with lots of stations testing out propagation paths with the WSPR beacon mode.

In the last few days, signals in the region of  2930kms have been heard across the south of Australia on 144 MHz. 

The map above shows the stations that VK6JR has heard.

Stations heard by VK6JR (2000kms+)

 UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid RX rxGrid                                 MHz W SNR drift     km
2021-12-25 19:28 VK2KRR QF34mr VK6JR OF76mi 144.490461 20 -17 0 2927
2021-12-29 20:34 VK7DC QE28ww VK6JR OF76mi 144.490484 10 -25 -1 2831
2021-12-29 14:38 VK3OE QF22qc VK6JR OF76mi 144.490395 20 -14 0 2765
2021-12-29 14:48 VK3DXE QF21nv VK6JR OF76mi 144.490395 20 -29 0 2743
2021-12-27 17:22 VK3ZAZ QF12ag VK6JR OF76mi 144.490448 100 -24 0 2471
2021-12-29 20:26 VK3HJV QF01tp VK6JR OF76mi 144.490408 20 -18 -4 2439
2021-12-04 22:22 VK5AKK PF94ix VK6JR OF76mi 144.490504 50 -22 0 2173

Stations hearing VK6JR (2000kms+)
UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid RX rxGrid                                 MHz W SNR drift km
2021-12-25 19:26 VK6JR OF76mi VK2KRR QF34mr 144.490577 10 -19 1 2927
2021-12-29 21:08 VK6JR OF76mi VK7CMV QE29od 144.490482 10 -26 0 2772
2021-12-29 20:44 VK6JR OF76mi VK3DXE QF21nv 144.490422 10 -22 0 2743
2021-12-27 18:22 VK6JR OF76mi VK3ZAZ QF12ag 144.490491 10 -29 0 2471
2021-12-29 18:22 VK6JR OF76mi VK3HJV QF01tp 144.490595 10 -27 1 2439
2021-12-23 22:38 VK6JR OF76mi VK5AKK PF94ix 144.490486 10 -28 3 2173

Propagation Mode: It's likely that marine ducting across the Great Australian Bight played a large part in these openings which were just under 3000kms. Considering it's in the middle of the southern hemisphere Sporadic-E season, that mode could have played a partial role as well for some signals.

1) For more examples of long distance paths, see my 144 MHz page.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Long path echoes on the 24 MHz band (VO1FOG) - Dec 2021

Larry, VO1FOG in Newfoundland, Canada has noticed a number of strong echoes on SSB signals on the higher HF bands recently and he has been able to confirm that this was due to long path echoes.

There is a nice audio sample below but first, let's set out what is happening.

The map above shows the location of VO1FOG in Newfoundland and VA2AM is 1560kms to the west near Montreal.

VA2AM is on 24.937 MHz and is beaming towards Europe. VO1FOG in Newfoundland is beaming east as well, listening to him for over an hour and the signal has a distinctive echo. The direct short path signal at 1500kms is below the F2 MUF for 24 MHz and is present but weak.

VO1FOG finally manages to catch the attention of VA2AM and VA2AM turns his antenna to the west to check the long path.

The signal with the echo is when VO1FOG is hearing both the short path and long path signals. You'll notice that when VA2AM turns his beam, the long path signal is much stronger and the echo disappears.

As VO1FOG points out, the long path signal has to travel almost right around the globe with a distance of about 38,500kms.

Analysis... The solar flux is currently around the 120-130 mark and the higher HF bands are now beginning to open. It's likely that a large part of the long path was probably due to chordal hop propagation with the signal going between different parts of the ionosphere and not touching the ground.

It's also worth pointing out that as far as I know, both VO1FOG and VA2AM are using directional beams up on towers and as such, both would have a low angle of radiation. These type of signals may not be so obvious on simple antennas like dipoles at a low height.

Questions... As is often the case, this example of long path echoes raises more questions..

1) Is this happening on the 28 MHz band at the moment? Is anyone hearing strange echoes?

2) What about FT8 signals? Does the echo destroy their ability to decode? With FT8 signals, it's all or nothing. It either decodes or it doesn't. With CW or SSB, the human brain can piece together what was being sent but what happens with a digital mode? Will the long path echo mess up the signal?

3) Is the 'long path' really a simple long path? For example, let's say someone with a transmitter sent a series of pulses like say a train of CW pulses with maybe a second or two in between each one.

The receiving station could then look at the received audio with an oscilloscope. In theory, the scope would trigger on the first short path signal and the long path signal would be seen as an individual peak in between the short path peaks.

But would it? Would there be more than one 'long path' peak? Would there be a chance of seeing secondary peaks if the signal went twice around the world? How would the peaks change as the antenna is turned?

The beauty of an oscilloscope it that it would show things that you can't hear and it would also show the delay of the signal in milliseconds allowing you to calculate the distance traveled. 

Wouldn't it be nice if there were CW beacons like this to allow people to carry out experiments?

There are probably many more questions and experiments but these are the ones that I thought of while I was listening to the recordings.


Here are a few more examples from Larry, VO1FOG...

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Irish regulator ComReg indicates approval for a novice amateur radio licence

In September of 2021, the Irish regulator COMREG issued a document titled... "Proposed Strategy for Managing the Radio Spectrum 2022 to 2024" - Link HERE

In response to this document, COMREG received 26 submissions about the part related to amateur radio.

• 10 responses were received from individual radio amateurs; and

• 16 responses were received from clubs, organisations, groups or societies

Out of that 16, a large part were from essentially the same small organisation so it's more like 10 radio radio amateurs and roughly 10 organisations/clubs.

Some of the submissions were in relation to higher power limits. Another however was for COMREG to consider introducing a new novice amateur radio licence.

Graphic from the original ComReg document

In response, ComReg wrote...

"ComReg’s assessment on novice licences
4.61 Taking into account the support expressed for entry-level or novice-licensing and
the strong justifications given above, ComReg will seek, in the timeline of this
strategy statement and subject to resources, to put in place a framework for
novice licensing in Ireland.

4.62 It is envisaged that to achieve this, ComReg will need to:
▪ Consult on its proposals;
▪ Make new Regulations, with the consent of the DECC Minister under
Section 6 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act ,1926, as amended; and
▪ tender for an external party to run any examination that may be required.
At this time ComReg would consider if that examination is best offered
online and, as a consequence, can be taken at any time."

The document with a summary of the proposals and the response from ComReg can be seen HERE

I was curious about what type of novice amateur radio licences were in other countries and I found this document on the DARC website (national society for radio amateurs in Germany). You can download it from HERE

There seems  to be quite a variation in what it allowed. Some countries have a novice licence which allows extensive use of the HF and VHF bands and is little different from a full licence, some are VHF only and some allow limited access to the HF bands.

We'll have to wait and see what ComReg come up with but it has to be generous enough that it gets people interested but not undermine the existing full amateur radio licence.

One of the submissions justified the novice licence by means of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths:

• such an action would align with the national policy for Ireland to be a leader in nurturing, developing and deploying STEM talent and the availability of a novice licence would enable the amateur radio service to act in the national interest;

It's not hard to imaging this being a good fit with say an allocation on the VHF bands and making use of the array of cubesats now in orbit. Novices could gain experience in how satellites orbit, what doppler shift is and how to make contacts through them.

If the novice licence includes an allocation on bands like 20m then I suspect it that a lot of the new callsigns will just end up on modes like FT8 and learn very little nothing in the process. It'll be just an amateur radio licence by another route.

My opinion... I'm pretty neutral about the whole novice licence and am just interested in seeing how it develops. I do hope though that ComReg look at a licence which might attract those with an interest in science and technology and not just those who want to go chase DX on the HF bands.

Friday, December 24, 2021

2500km+ opening on 144 MHz between Australia & New Zealand - 23rd Dec 2021

23rd December 2021: At the moment, stations in the southern hemisphere are in the middle of their Sporadic-E season and at times, there are openings as high as the 144 MHz band.

The above is an example of what looks like a mixed propagation mode opening between New Zealand and the south-east corner of Australia.

ZL1SIZ in the far north of New Zealand was sending out WSPR signals on 144 MHz and these were received by four Australian stations with distances in the range of 2451 to 2575kms.

 UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid         RX         rxGrid MHz W SNR     drift km
2021-12-23 08:42 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK7DC QE28ww 144.490562 10 -23 0 2516
2021-12-23 08:54 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK3MHY QF22ma 144.490555 10 -21 -1 2575
2021-12-23 08:54 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK3KZM QF21os 144.490543 10 -17 0 2560
2021-12-23 09:00 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK3ALZ QF31fs 144.490554 10 -18 0 2451
2021-12-23 09:00 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK3MHY QF22ma 144.49056 10 -27 0 2575
2021-12-23 09:00 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK3KZM QF21os 144.490544 10 -23 1 2560

How do we know it was likely to have been Sporadic-E? All of the reception spots are shown above and they are all from a small time window with just six minutes for the stations in Victoria. If it was 100% tropo ducting then we might expect to see more reports over a much longer time period.

How do we know it was likely to be due to mixed propagation mode? Simply because the distance is further than what is possible with one Sporadic-E hop... i.e. about  2300kms.

The tropo prediction map from F5LEN suggests that conditions were reasonable over the ocean at the New Zealand end.

ZL to VK6 on 144 MHz??? While the opening or distance described above isn't that exceptional, it does give a hint at what might be possible at some stage. 

A few days ago, I had a post up about about a 2700km opening from Western Australia to New South Wales. Now the example above shows an opening from Victoria to New Zealand.

Is a 5000km opening on 144 MHz between New Zealand and the west of Australia possible??? 

There are often tropo ducts in the Great Australian Bight to the south of Australia and in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. Could some exceptional Sporadic-E opening coincide with a large tropo duct?

Best mode??? WSPR with its two-minute transmission cycles probably isn't the best mode for this as the Sporadic-E openings along the route may be short in duration. Having said that, the guys in Australia and New Zealand have a very successful WSPR network going on the 144 MHz and the information from the WSPR reports could show what parts of the path are open. It may be down to individuals then trying to make contacts on the FT8 or Q65 frequencies.

1) For more reports on long distance paths on 2m, see my 144 MHz page.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Opening to the USA on 28 MHz as solar flux hits 140 - 22nd Dec 2021

Wednesday 22nd December 2021: I left the radio monitoring the WSPR frequency on 28 MHz for the day and I was surprised to see a lot of US stations made it across the Atlantic. If this had been on FT8 then the map would probably be ablaze with reception dots but there are a LOT fewer stations on WSPR on 10m.

It was also a day where the solar flux reached 140! I think that may be the highest value so far for cycle 25.

DP0POL: And on a final note, I also got several WSPR decodes from DP0POL, the German Antarctic research vessel which was off the west coast of Africa and making its way home.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

6000km opening on 144 MHz between the Caribbean & S America - 20th Dec 2021

Trans-Equatorial Propagation - TEP: There was a very good opening on 144 MHz on the 20th of December 2021 between the Caribbean area and South America with distances in the region of 5000 to 6000kms.

While TEP openings like this are a regular occurrence, what I found interesting was the fact that it happened almost at the Summer solstice for the southern hemisphere.

I suspect the fact that the Geomagnetic Equator is well to the south of the real equator in South America might be a factor here. TEP openings are supposed to be at their best near the equinoxes but that may be for areas of the world where the geomagnetic and real equators are at the same point.

PJ2BR: The map above shows the contacts made by Brett, PJ2BR on the island of Curacao with the Q65 mode and the stations are listed below.

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
PJ2BR LU5BE 2m Q65B 5312 km 01:14:58
PJ2BR LU8EDA 2m Q65 5311 km 01:14:59
LU8EDA PJ2BR 2m Q65 5311 km 01:10:44
PJ2BR LU5CQC 2m Q65 5308 km 01:14:59
LU5CQC PJ2BR 2m Q65 5308 km 01:14:14
PJ2BR LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5306 km 01:15:05
LW2DAF PJ2BR 2m Q65 5306 km 00:53:59
LU2DPW PJ2BR 2m Q65 5296 km 01:33:29
PJ2BR LU2DPW 2m Q65B 5296 km 00:55:15
PJ2BR LU4DJC 2m Q65 5284 km 01:08:44
LU7JMS PJ2BR 2m Q65 5087 km 00:59:59

It wasn't all digital though with many making contacts on SSB as well. Note the very rapid flutter in the audio...

Dominican Republic (HI8) & Puerto Rico (WP4): The TEP opening from South America extended further north as well with distances of just over 6000kms being achieved. Again, lots with the Q65 mode as opposed to FT8.

Signal reports for LW2DAF in Argentina...
Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
HI8JSG LW2DAF 2m Q65B 6020 km 00:51:20
LW2DAF HI8JSG 2m Q65 6020 km 00:44:00
HI8DL LW2DAF 2m Q65B 6020 km 00:43:49
LW2DAF HI8DL 2m Q65 6020 km 00:39:58
HI8T LW2DAF 2m Q65B 6015 km 00:41:18
LW2DAF HI8T 2m Q65 6015 km 00:39:58
LW2DAF WP3DN 2m Q65 5946 km 00:43:59
PJ2BR LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5306 km 01:15:05
LW2DAF PJ2BR 2m Q65 5306 km 00:53:59
PJ4EL LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5299 km 01:08:35
LW2DAF PJ4EL 2m Q65 5299 km 00:06:59
LW2DAF PJ4GR 2m Q65 5294 km 00:51:59
PJ4GR LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5294 km 00:51:18

Signal reports for WP3DN...
Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
LW2DAF WP3DN 2m Q65 5946 km 00:43:59
LU7JMS WP3DN 2m Q65 5721 km 00:59:59
WP3DN LU7JMS 2m Q65 3556 miles 00:59:19
WP3DN PY5EK 2m Q65B 3246 miles 00:58:15
PY5EK WP3DN 2m Q65 5223 km 23:33:14

DX-Cluster: Spots on the cluster show plenty of SSB contacts.
LU5BE 144305.0 PJ2BR 00:35 21 Dec Curacao
LU2DPW-@ 144305.0 PJ2BR 00:30 21 Dec TKS SSB QSO 73 Curacao
CX1DDO 144300.0 PJ2GR 00:27 21 Dec GF15XD<>FK52 53 -5.5 SSB Curacao
LU7DW-@ 144305.0 PJ2BR 00:22 21 Dec Curacao 
LU7DW-@ 144300.0 PJ2BR 00:08 21 Dec GF05<<TEP>FK52 loud ! Curacao

PY5EK 144180.0 WP4KJJ 23:35 20 Dec Q65B +0 dB 1302 Hz tnx tep Puerto Rico
LU7DW-@ 144300.0 NP4BM 00:44 20 Dec Puerto Rico

WP4KJJ-@ 144180.0 LU7JMS 01:01 21 Dec Argentina
PJ2BR 144300.0 LW2DAF 00:48 21 Dec So loud!! tnx QSO Argentina
WP4KJJ-@ 144300.0 PU2MBY 00:11 21 Dec 5/2 Brazil
WP4KJJ-@ 144300.0 PY5EK 23:41 20 Dec 57 pick Brazil
KP4EIT-@ 144300.0 PY5EK 23:40 20 Dec NOW 57 SWL Brazil
KP4EIT-@ 144300.0 PY5EK 23:37 20 Dec 5/5 SWL LOUD Brazil

It should be noted that all of the times are in UTC. This opening was around 8pm local time on the 20th of December for the stations involved.

1) For more examples of long distance contacts on 2m, see my 144 MHz page.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

2700km opening on 144 MHz in Australia - 20th Dec 2021

Monday 20th December 2021: The Great Australian Bight is the area of water just off the south coast of Australia and is well known for producing some fine tropospheric ducts. 

On what was the 21st of December in Australia, 144 MHz WSPR signals were exchanged by VK6NI and VK2KRR on a path that was just under 2700kms.

UTC (y-m-d)         TX         txGrid RX rxGrid         MHz         W SNR drift km
2021-12-20 21:02 VK2KRR QF34mr VK6NI OF85pa 144.490562 20 -18 0 2696
2021-12-20 21:26 VK2KRR QF34mr VK6NI OF85pa 144.490553 20 -22 0 2696
2021-12-20 21:42 VK2KRR QF34mr VK6NI OF85pa 144.490552 20 -25 0 2696
2021-12-20 21:48 VK2KRR QF34mr VK6NI OF85pa 144.490553 20 -19 0 2696
2021-12-20 20:58 VK6NI OF85pa VK2KRR QF34mr 144.490427 10 -18 0 2696
2021-12-20 21:18 VK6NI OF85pa VK2KRR QF34mr 144.490427 10 -20 0 2696
2021-12-20 21:38 VK6NI OF85pa VK2KRR QF34mr 144.490427 10 -7 0 2696
2021-12-20 22:22 VK6NI OF85pa VK2KRR QF34mr 144.490427 10 -24 0 2696

The tropo opening seems to have lasted about an hour.

There was also a 2000km tropo opening on 144 MHz between Australia and New Zealand on the same day.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

58 countries heard on 28 MHz - 19th Dec 2021

Sunday 19th December 2021: I noticed early this morning that conditions seemed reasonably good on 28 MHz just after the band opened. As an experiment, I decided to leave the radio on the FT8 frequency on 28 MHz to see just how many station I could hear for the day.

The result was 595 stations in 58 DXCC countries on 28 MHz which is a major improvement on recent conditions.

Just a week ago during the ARRL 10m contest, conditions were awful with the solar flux down at 80.

A few days ago, a new group of sunspots appeared on the western limb of the sun and the solar flux has jumped to 121. I'm sure there must be a lot of contesters who are wishing that these sunspots appeared a week earlier.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Winter 2021 release of the QRSS Compendium 4th Edition

Every year, the Knights QRSS Group release their annual compendium. You can view the Winter 2021 (4th edition) HERE

The Knights QRSS Group promotes the use of very slow mode code beacons to carry out propagation experiments on the HF bands. Often signals that are 15 to 20 dB below the noise can be seen on a computer screen as opposed to being heard by ear.

While newer digital modes can now be used for detecting very weak signals, they don't really show propagation effects. Either the digital signal was decoded or it wasn't. QRSS signals like the one shown below shows propagation over a 15-minute period.

In that image, you can see how signals fade with the Sporadic-E footprint moving and the polarisation changing. It also shows up slight doppler effects.

You can find out more about QRSS signals by visiting the QRSS Knights page...

Friday, December 17, 2021

Opening on 50 MHz from Australia to Europe??? - 17th Dec 2021

Friday 17th December 2021: I got an interesting email from Nigel, VK6CPU informing me of what looks like an opening on the 50 MHz band from Australia & New Zealand to Europe in December!


Update 18th Dec: VK3ZAZ & VK6CPU says that this was a bogus reception report with a VK station in Australia using the callsign of LZ2HV to generate false reports.

It still doesn't mean that mid-Winter openings like this can't happen. It would still worthwhile for stations in the south of Europe to listen for VK stations on 6m.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

18 countries heard on 28 MHz - 15th Dec 2021

Wednesday 15th December 2021:
For a change, I decided to let the radio listen for FT8 signals instead of the WSPR signals on the 28 MHz band to get an idea of what band conditions were really like.

Back at the end of October 2021, I heard 78 countries on 28 MHz in one day. On the 15th of December, condition were much more subdued with just 41 stations in 18 countries heard.

It's wasn't all doom and gloom as there were some DX stations on the 10m band including three from Australia.

Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
VK2DG 10m FT8 16956 km 09:42:29
VK5MRD 10m FT8 16794 km 10:22:14
VK6AS 10m FT8 15053 km 11:54:59

Note however though there was nothing from South and North America.

The solar flux was up at 103 which is reasonable but I suspect conditions on 28 MHz will remain subdued until we head towards the equinox in March. Hopefully, there will be some big mid-Winter Sporadic-E openings in the next 3-4 weeks to liven things up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Trans-Pacific 50 MHz opening between New Zealand and South America - 14th Dec 2021

14th December 2021: It's interesting to see that long distance paths across the Pacific on the 50 MHz band are now beginning to get better in the southern hemisphere.

The map above shows some of the 6m signals heard by ZL1RS in New Zealand with paths to South America ranging from 9,836 kms to 12,595 kms.

 Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
PY4AQA 6m Q65 12595 km 22:30:30
PY2XB 6m Q65 12202 km 22:49:29
PU2MBY 6m Q65 12059 km 23:13:27
PY5EW 6m Q65 11967 km 23:33:27
PY5KD 6m Q65 11893 km 23:13:27
PT9FD 6m Q65 11825 km 23:08:29
LU5FF 6m Q65 10736 km 22:52:29
CE3VRT 6m Q65 9836 km 23:20:32

Note the mode... Q65! FT8 isn't the only weak signal mode.

The times are in UTC so in reality, this opening was during the daytime with the sun over the Pacific.

Propagation Mode??... As it's December, the Summer Sporadic-E season in the southern hemisphere has started and is likely to get better. 

If we assume the average Sporadic-E hop to be say 2000kms, did 5 or 6 of these hops line up for the 50 MHz signal to get from South America to New Zealand?

I'd be pretty certain that Sporadic-E was involved to some extent but I don't think anyone can say for certain it was 100% responsible. Was part of it chordal hop? Was the mesosphere region associated with noctilucent clouds involved?

As the openings get better, it'll be interesting to see the signals extend as far as Australia and what paths open up then.

Update from Bob, ZL1RS: Bob mentions that there have been several openings from ZL1 (North Island of New Zealand) to South America on 6m in the last few weeks.

25th Nov 2021 - CE (Chile) and PY (Brazil)
26th Nov 2021 - CE and LU (Argentina)
01st Dec 2021 - LU (RX only)
02nd Dec 2021 - CE
10th Dec 2021 - CE
14th Dec 2021 - as noted above

Bob adds... "... and on another date that I did not note, with propagation from ZL3 to SA.
... and signals from SA have been reported as received in VK3 and VK5 (while the operators were out of the shack). Having said that, the opening on 14 Dec was the most sustained so far this season ... signals in and out from 21:15 UTC until 23:15 UTC."

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Lots of bursts on 28 MHz from Geminid meteor shower - 14th Dec 2021

On the morning of the 14th of December 2021, I noticed a lot of meteor scatter bursts of weak signals from G0MBA and G0PKT on 28 MHz. Both stations are located about 650kms to the east of me and the bursts were due to the Geminid meteor shower.

They are both sending QRSS signals which is very slow morse code which can be decoded visually and they transmit about 400Hz below the WSPR signals on 28 MHz. 

An example of what the signals should look like is shown below. This is from a Sporadic-E opening last May.

I did note this morning that while I was hearing all of these meteor scatter bursts, I was getting no WSPR decodes from either station. This was no great surprise as WSPR signals are nearly two minutes in length and only exceptional meteor bursts are that long even on a low frequency like 28 MHz.

As you can tell from the initial image, signals from meteor scatter look a bit of a mess and I'm sure this doesn't help with decoding either.

I did manage some WSPR decodes from both G0 stations later but I suspect it might have been weak Sporadic-E.

UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid RX rxGrid MHz W SNR drift km
2021-12-14 08:38 G0MBA JO01 EI7GL IO51tu 28.126066 0.2 -19 -1 645
2021-12-14 09:18 G0MBA JO01 EI7GL IO51tu 28.126067 0.2 -20 -1 645
2021-12-14 09:38 G0MBA JO01 EI7GL IO51tu 28.126065 0.2 -24 0 645
2021-12-14 08:08 G0PKT JO01mt EI7GL IO51tu 28.126078 0.2 -22 0 647
2021-12-14 08:38 G0PKT JO01mt EI7GL IO51tu 28.126077 0.2 -15 -1 647
2021-12-14 09:18 G0PKT JO01mt EI7GL IO51tu 28.126078 0.2 -18 0 647
2021-12-14 09:38 G0PKT JO01mt EI7GL IO51tu 28.126075 0.2 -18 0 647
2021-12-14 12:18 G0PKT JO01mt EI7GL IO51tu 28.126076 0.2 -21 -1 647

28 MHz Meteor Scatter contacts??? ... I wonder if anyone has tried making meteor scatter contacts on 28 MHz with dedicated MS modes like MSK144? Considering how many bursts there are during major showers, contacts in the range of 500 to 1000kms should be really easy.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Pause on new 40 MHz experimental permits in the USA

In a previous post, I outlined how seven experimental licenses were issued for the 40 MHz band in the USA. It now seems as if the FCC, the licensing authority in the USA are now turning down new applications.

It's possible there may be two reasons for this...

1) The FCC may have been contacted by existing users of the 40 MHz band about their fear of interference from these new experimental stations.

2) The FCC may feel that this is an attempt by radio amateurs to gain access to a new VHF band by the back door so to speak.

Hopefully, the FCC will be assured that the licenses issues are issued to people who want to conduct propagation experiments and it's not just another band for talking or DX-ing.

1) My 40 MHz page

Friday, December 10, 2021

3000km+ opening on 144 MHz between Australia & Fiji - 9th Dec 2021

As the Summer Sporadic-E season begins in the southern hemisphere, there have been reports of openings on the 50 MHz and 144 MHz bands.

In Australia, there is a very active community of stations using WSPR beacon mode on the 2m and 6m bands with a lot of success. On the 9th of December, the 144 MHz WSPR signal from VK2IJM near Sydney was heard almost 3200 kms away on the island of Fiji by 3D2TS.

UTC (y-m-d)        TX         txGrid  RX         rxGrid MHz W SNR drift km
2021-12-09 23:08 VK2IJM QF56ni 3D2TS RH91fv 144.490586 20 -29 -1 3218 

As you can see from the single reception report, the signal was -29dB which is an incredibly weak signal.

The two stations tried to complete a FT8 contact just 14 minutes later. 3D2TS on Fuji could hear VK2IJM at-21dB but 3D2TS wasn't strong enough in Australia to complete a contact.

Propagation Mode???... The next question is how did a 144 MHz signal get from Sydney to Fiji? The maximum distance for one hop Sporadic-E is about 2300kms so something else has to account for the additional 900kms.

It's probably no accident that this happened over a sea path and the most likely explanation is a combined one hop Sporadic-E signal that coupled into a marine duct over the ocean. The above tropo forecast map from Pascal, F5LEN certainly supports this theory.

It's not possible to completely rule out a 100% marine duct or a chordal hop Sporadic-E opening with two Sp-E clouds but the highest probability is a combined Sp-E / tropo duct.

1) Check out my 144 MHz page for details of more 3000km+ openings.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

End of the road for the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH)

It was announced today that the World Radio TV Handbook is coming to an end and the 2022 edition will be the last one.

In a statement, the publishers wrote... "Having produced this book for the past 24 years, we are very sorry to announce that WRTH 2022 will be the final edition of World Radio TV Handbook produced and published by WRTH Publications. 

This has been an extremely difficult decision and was only made after a lot of thought and discussion. 
We know that many people rely on WRTH and greatly enjoy getting the new edition every year. 

We realise that this news will be disappointing for many people. We wish to thank you all for your loyal support over the years.

Good DX and Happy Listening,

Nicholas Hardyman (WRTH Publisher) and the WRTH Editorial team

Back before the widespread use of the Internet in the mid to late 1990's, this book was a must for any serious short wave listener.

Fast forward to today and there is a huge amount of information available for free online. In addition to that, shortwave broadcasting in many parts of the world has disappeared or declined.

The current price for the 2022 edition is £35 which is about €41 or $46. There may be post & packing costs to be added to that so it is quite expensive in contrast to what is free online.

If you would like to purchase the 76th and final edition of the World Radio TV Handbook then go to their website...

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

More information about the proposed Amateur TV experiments at 29.250 MHz & 51.7 MHz

In a previous post in August of 2021, I outlined how some radio amateurs in Europe plan to experiment with digital ATV (Amateur TV) on the 10-metre band in the Summer of 2022. That post generated quite a bit of interest.

On Monday the 6th of December 2021, the BATC streamed a YouTube presentation about current Amateur TV techniques and activity as part of the RSGB Tonight at 8 series.

While the video is about 75 minutes in length, the piece I found really interesting was about the proposed ATV experiments at 29.250 MHz and 51.7 MHz. They refer to these as the 'lower ATV bands'.

Amateur TV up to now has normally been used on the UHF and microwave bands. This new development at 29 MHz and 51 MHz will potentially allow ATV signals to be sent on frequencies which will achieve much greater distances via the ionosphere - i.e Sporadic-E and F2 layer.

I find it amazing that there is the potential of sending amateur TV signals between say Europe and  North America on the 10-metre band.

 The presentation with time guides are shown below...

Video guide...
03:35: Introduction starts
05:15: G8GTZ begins his presentation
06:55: What is ATV - Amateur TeleVision / Why amateur television? / ATV is going digital
12:00: Analogue V Digital ATV / Reduced bandwidth (RB-TV) / 80 kHz RBTV
16:30: UK ATV activity and repeaters
20:45: ATV on the air - 1 The lower ATV bands
22:45: ATV on the air - 2 Low cost 5.6 GHz FM ATV with example contact
29:45: ATV on the air 3 - DATV on QO100 (Geostationary satellite)
38:20 - DATV equipment / Getting started / Ryde DATV receiver / Portsdown DATV transceiver / DATV receive system / DATV transmit system / 
57:55: Info about British Amateur Television Club (BATC)
1:01:00 Q &A session

I am told that the numbers involved are likely to be small with perhaps something like 20-30 stations taking part. Special boards are being developed at present and no doubt, these will be be got ready for the Sporadic-E season next May.

It would be very interesting if some radio amateurs in North America got interested in this project.

1) BATC website...

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Skewed propagation path on 28 MHz between Australia & South America - Dec 2021

Recently, Scott VK4CZ reported a skewed path on 28 MHz between Australia and South America.

The image above shows what happened. The direct and shortest path from VK4CZ to CE2SV is 11,800kms and is shown in Green. The beam heading from eastern Australia is 142 degrees.

VK4CZ however found that the FT8 signals from CE2SV peaked at about 70 degrees, a skewed path that was about 70 degrees off the direct path.

Scott mentions that the skewed path opening was from 21:00 - 22:00 UTC and I believe at that time period, the sun was directly over the centre of the Pacific.

VK4CZ was using an ICOM IC-7600 with a 5-element monoband Yagi for 28 MHz at 20 metres above ground level.

Scott, VK4CZ writes... "It's been amazing to see the scatter path to South America out of the North Pacific available again on 10m yesterday and again this morning. This path was a consistent feature through the peak of last cycle, and with digital modes it's becoming available now!

Worked/seen this morning were HK (Columbia), LU (Argentina) and CE (Chile) all peaking at a QTF of 70. Direct QTF for CE 145... so well off a direct path.

It's an interesting propagation mode that I regularly observe across the Pacific. As I understand, it's trans-equatorial scatter.

The same path should be available to Africa in the afternoon/evenings from here.

The likelihood of it also being available at 50MHz is high.... we'll just need the cycle to progress towards the peak to be sure.

A couple of cycles back, I heard Peter PY5CC in Brazil on 6m CW using the same path (albeit late afternoon when TEP peaked to KH6 / Hawaii)."

Analysis... This is my understanding of what happened and I'm open to correction. Directly under the sun near the equator, the solar radiation is at it's highest and the F layer of the ionosphere is highly ionized with a high maximum usable frequency (MUF).

This is usually split into two zones of high electron density either side of the geomagnetic equator but in December, the southern one is much larger.

This can be thought to be like a tube like structure that is stretched out east-west.

The above graphic is a bit rough but you can get the general idea of the signal hitting the F layer from the side.

Skewed paths are a fascinating subject and are allow serious DXers and contesters to exploit paths when the direct path isn't possible. This is especially true on the higher HF bands like 28 MHz where the shortest east-west paths are often closed.

I suspect these skewed paths happen a lot more often than we realise especially now that so many people are using weak signal modes like FT8.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Guest Post: VHF & UHF operation... by Alan Johnson, VK3DXE

VK3DXE in Australia recently posted this article on his Facebook page and it is republished here with his kind permission to reach a wider audience. In it, he outlines what attracted him to the VHF bands.

I've been a member of a number of VHF/UHF Ham pages for a while, and keep seeing a lot of misconceptions and myths being picked up and quoted over and over by newcomers, and sadly a lot of not-so-newcomers who’ve brought their HF Game with them to the higher bands. 

I first became fascinated with VHF tropo propagation as a young kid living in the country, where we only had 2 TV channels, but occasionally we’d get the channels from the city suddenly appear when the conditions were right. You can imagine the excitement for a young kid way back then who's suddenly discovered some new TV channels! We had a neighbour up the hill who happened to be a Ham, and he explained to me how tropo worked. I was hooked, and from then on, whenever the weather forecast maps looked promising, and we got the right conditions, summer or winter, I’d start looking for the telltales that the city channels were going to pick up.

Fast forward 7 or 8 years, and I eventually got my Australian Novice license, quickly upgrading to the Advanced Call within a year when I was about 15 or 16. We were near the top of the sunspot cycle at the time, so I went nuts on HF for the next few years. But as the sunspots waned, I was drawn to the higher bands…..

As a youngster it was sometimes tough putting up a decent 2m yagi, but I always found a way of getting something in the air, and making the most of what I had available, even when living in rental housing. I just had to be creative, and sometimes a bit cheeky. The good thing about a 2m yagi though, was that even if anybody noticed it, they'd just figure it was a TV antenna.....  

You can build a small yagi like this in an afternoon with some simple tools.

I learned about aircraft enhancement in the days before we had all the funky tools we have today, before the widespread coming of the Internet. We managed to regularly make 2m SSB contacts of up to 700km (400+ miles) with smallish yagis and relatively low power - one path of 740km was quite good even with my portable station, with just a little 4 element yagi and Yaesu FT-290R II running only 2.5 watts!  

Living in inner city urban areas, I really began to appreciate low noise antenna designs (DL6WU & K1FO were the early leaders) and radio frontends that didn't collapse in the presence of strong out of band signals. I learned about GaAsFET LNAs (Low Noise Amplifiers, or preamps) too, and the importance of what was in front of the radio on RX. You have to think of your station as a system.

In the early 1990’s the Bible of VHF+ was published. The VHF/UHF DX Book very quickly became the must-have tome in every serious VHFer’s library. Although some of the chapters are now a bit dated, especially those relating to equipment, I strongly suggest everybody with even a fleeting interest in the higher bands downloads a copy and reads it. Hopefully it’ll help to undo some of the myths about VHF+ that have persisted in the hobby for far too long, things like the belief that troppo is only a summertime thing, and that troppo is the only worthwhile propagation mode on VHF+. Download it here:

As the Internet came along and people developed all sorts of new tools, and we learnt about Forums, email reflectors, and then FaceBook pages, the opportunities to learn and collaborate grew amazingly.

Then the WSJT suite of software changed things overnight. All of a sudden, the little guys running just 100w to a 10 element yagi could successfully work stations on the other side of the world on 2m and above via EME, or Earth-Moon-Earth. I worked a dozen countries with just a single yagi and less than 200w at the antenna. 

Just last weekend, I was listening to HB9Q in Switzerland on 23cm for hours here in my /P shack while we're living in temporary accommodation, with a beautiful steady signal, often quite audible in the speaker, all on a tiny 60cm x 90cm gridpack antenna. 

Eventually, once I get my 2.4m dish in the air and find a suitable amplifier, I hope to be able to work him on 23cm SSB at home.... JT65 and Q65 will be an absolute walk in the park.

Lots of signals on 23cm with the gridpack.

In Australia, where we don’t have the population of Europe or North America, the Ham fraternity have embraced WSPR on 2m, and have demonstrated VHF paths of sometimes thousands of kilometres that no amount of listening to white noise for beacons or a coincidentally-timed CQ would find with the naked ear. Those paths are now being exploited regularly on digital modes, with people moving to SSB when conditions become strong enough. I've been around the hobby for a long time, but so too have the "old farts", some of whom vociferously decry the use of digital modes, but our experience here in Australia has really demonstrated how digital modes can be exploited to help get those SSB contacts that very probably would never have taken place otherwise. WSPR has been so successful that there are now WSPR beacons on Hawaii (often heard on West Coast USA), and in New Zealand, with a fantastic signal into East Coast Australia during the summer tropo season.

A little 4 element Cushcraft yagi. Even this is enough to decode some of the Big Guns off the Moon. I had many WSPR 2-ways with this one, out to 700km with Aircraft Enhancement

Next time you're asked by anybody (PARTICULARLY CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE) about the hobby, instead of trying to excite them with boring stories of talking on HF or FM repeaters, which they tend to equate with the equivalent of dialing random numbers on their cellphone to talk to old farts with bad combover hairstyles about their hemorrhoids, try telling them about stuff like all the space comms stuff we have access to, and can actively participate in, like using the repeater on the ISS, and all the other satellites we have access to. Tell them about Moonbounce, and how you can actually demonstrate the speed of light in action - you know exactly when the station on the other end has stopped transmitting, but can still see and hear his signal coming back at you for those additional 2 or 3 seconds it takes to travel all the way to the Moon and back. THAT gets young people more excited than listening to old farts! Try talking to them about meteor scatter, and how the military has used it for communication systems to counter the effects of comms satellites being wiped out in a conflict, or a dirty big EMP bomb wiping out HF. Tell them about aircraft enhancement, which is really bistatic radar, and how some clever dude worked out a way of using it to detect stealth aircraft by using commercial broadcasters behind enemy lines to illuminate the target. Tell them about all the really funky atmospheric and weather science they can learn just by playing with weak signals on VHF+. Tell them about the funky networking knowledge they can gain from modes like D-Star, IRLP, Echolink, etc. 

The /P shack while I'm away from home

Anyways, I've written this piece in response to a recent influx of newcomers and not-so-newcomers to the higher bands, possibly on the back of purchasing themselves a brand new IC-9700. I fully appreciate that everybody starts their learning journey from different places and has different interests, but some of the myths and misunderstandings I see are staggering. Unfortunately, so much of the Ham narrative has become very HF-centric, and that mindset often pervades discussions, and the marketing of the hobby, so this is just my little bit to try to counter some of that.  Remember to download the VHF/UHF DX Book from the link above, and jump onto some of the more technical pages and start learning. 

I'll be doing a bit of a write up soon on the importance of frequency accuracy and STABILITY on VHF+. Watch this space.