Sunday, January 30, 2022

New 40 MHz beacon WM2XCS now operational from New Jersey

George, N2CG has one of the seven experimental 40 MHz permits in the USA and was given the callsign WM2XCS. He has just announced that he now has an operational 40 MHz beacon from his location in New Jersey.

George writes..." I am happy to announce that on January 26, 2022 at 1900 UTC WM2XCS beacon began operating on 40.685 MHz CW mode at 10 Watts output into a SIRIO 8m 5/8 wave vertical

The WM2XCS CW beacon on 40.685 MHz sends the following message at 12 WPM: "VVV DE WM2XCS BCN WM2XCS BCN FN20WV NNJ 5 seconds dash AR" that takes about 50 seconds to send.  This message is followed by a 60 seconds delay and then the sequence repeats.  My transmitter frequency tolerance is +/- 0.5 ppm.

For now, I operate the beacon about 10-11 hours a day beginning around 8 AM EST (1300 UTC) to 7 PM EST (0000 UTC).  Signal reports and/or spotting reception reports of my 8m beacon will be most welcomed.

I encourage all when hearing my beacon to spot your report on the DXMAPS website ( ) that indicates 40 MHz band reports.

73, George  WM2XCS/N2CG

Analysis... This beacon should be widely heard once the Sporadic-E season begins in the second half of April. The map above shows the typical range for Sporadic-E signals on the 40 MHz band while most of the openings should be around the 1200-1800km mark.

This in effect means that stations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia and the north of Florida are the most likely to hear it during the Summer months.

There will be openings in the range of 2000-2300kms but these will be weaker.

During the months of May, June & July, there should be more multi-hop Sporadic-E openings. This should allow openings from New Jersey to California and from New Jersey to Europe.

The fact the beacon is CW only and doesn't have a digital component like FT8, PI4 or WSPR means the conditions will really need to be good.

What will be really interesting to see if the rising solar flux levels result in an opening via the F2 layer? Will the MUF reach the 40 MHz band?

Certainly, F2 layer propagation from New Jersey to California and Europe on 40 MHz at the peak of the upcoming sunspot cycle will be possible.

It would also be very interesting to see if anyone in South America is able to hear this beacon.

Listening for the WM2XCS beacon... For the 40 MHz band to open, the 28 MHz band below it will almost certainly be open as well.

I have compiled a short list of 28 MHz beacons which are in the general area of WM2XCS...

K3CX/B 28.2025 FN20CI 
WN2A/AK2F 28.2085 FN20OU 
K3FX/B 28.2160 FN20XE
N3TVV/B 28.2320 FN20DU
N2MH/B 28.2325 FN20UT
WA3MCK/B 28.2400 FN21BF
KG2GL/B 28.2460 FN20WT
KA3JOE/B 28.2495 FN20MD
KB2RSK/B 28.2685 FN22QW
WA3NFV/B 28.2700 FN20IH

If you can hear any of those beacons on 28 MHz then that would be a good time to look for the WM2XCS beacon on 40.685 MHz.

1) For more information on the 8m band, check out my 40 MHz page.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

3155 km opening on 144 MHz between Australia & New Zealand - 28th Jan 2022

28th January 2021: There was another 3000km+ opening on 144 MHz between Australia and New Zealand when Peter, VK5PJ in Adelaide received the WSPR signal from Bob, ZL1SIX.

The two WSPR decodes are shown below and the signals were pretty weak at -19 and -20dB.

 UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid RX rxGrid MHz W SNR drift km
2022-01-28 01:06 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK5PJ PF95mk 144.490537 10 -21 0 3155
2022-01-28 01:12 ZL1SIX RF64vt VK5PJ PF95mk 144.490537 10 -19 0 3155

The map above shows the WSPR signals heard on 144 MHz by VK5PJ over a 24 hour period. Most of the Australian signals are tropo but the 3155km distance was really something else.

Remember, 3155kms is the distance between Ireland and Newfoundland across the North Atlantic.

Propagation??... It's important to note that VK5PJ was the only station in Australia to hear ZL1SIX on 144 MHz that that. i.e. none of the closer stations near the south-east coast heard him. This does suggest that Sporadic-E was the main propagation mechanism.

One single Sporadic-E hop might account for a maximum of say 2300kms but not 3155kms. What makes up the difference?

The map above shows the tropo prediction from Pascal, F5LEN and it suggests that there might have been some tropo ducting over the Tasman Sea.

It's possible that the western path of the 3155km path was due to Sporadic-E and that coupled into a maritime duct for the remainder of the circuit to New Zealand.

A second option was that it was due to chordal hop Sporadic-E with the signal going between two Sporadic-E 'clouds'. This does happen at 144 MHz but it is relatively rare.

It's impossible to know for sure what the propagation mechanism was but the probability of a combined Sp-E / tropo duct opening is higher.

1) More examples of long distance paths can be found on my 144 MHz page.

Friday, January 28, 2022

A snapshot of conditions on 28 MHz - 28th Jan 2022

Friday 28th January 2022: As an experiment, I left my radio on 28.074 MHz to monitor the FT8 activity and to see what the current conditions on 10-metres are really like. The results are shown above and they show I heard 181 stations in 35 DXCC countries.

Every day, I listen for WSPR signals on 28 MHz and I know that I'm not seeing the full picture due to a lack of stations. FT8 is quite simply the best way at present to see what the conditions on a band are like.

In terms of DX, it's always nice to hear Australia on 28 MHz and I logged a total of 15 on FT8.

Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
VK1MA 10m FT8 17437 km 09:31:29
VK3MH 10m FT8 17420 km 10:19:14
VK3TU 10m FT8 17408 km 11:00:44
VK5PW 10m FT8 16800 km 08:35:44
VK5GR 10m FT8 16794 km 09:45:59
VK5ST 10m FT8 16787 km 10:20:14
VK5NEC 10m FT8 16784 km 08:41:29
VK6APK 10m FT8 15125 km 09:42:59
VK6IR 10m FT8 15097 km 10:57:44
VK6RK 10m FT8 15064 km 11:07:44
VK6DW 10m FT8 15061 km 09:45:29
VK6OZ 10m FT8 15056 km 10:44:59
VK6BAS 10m FT8 15037 km 10:41:44
VK6JJJ 10m FT8 15037 km 09:28:59
VK8TH 10m FT8 14349 km 10:20:14

I also heard the VK8VF beacon in Darwin on CW on 28.268 MHz.

Spotter Freq. DX Time Info Country
EI7GL 28268 VK8VF/B 10:13 28 Jan 22 IO51TU<F2>PH57KP Australia

It's also worth noting the signals that were missing. There were hardly any stations from North America and there was nothing from Japan. The solar flux on the day was 107 which is still pretty modest. 

Back to WSPR tomorrow 👍

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Radio astronomers image sky at 144 MHz in more detail

I came across an interesting article today about how radio astronomers are in the process of plotting the radio sources of the northern sky in more detail at 144 MHz.

The problem up to now is that the ionosphere slightly distorts the signal at 144 MHz and that impacts the resolution of the radio image. A team of radio astronomers have now worked out a way to compensate for this distortion which allows resolution of radio sources at much greater detail. Some of these are shown above.

The paper was published in Nature Astronomy on the 27th of January 2022 and a preview can be seen HERE

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Tracking a German Polar Research Ship on 28 MHz - Dec 2021 & Jan 2022

For the last few weeks, I have left my HF radio on the 10m WSPR frequency of 28.1246 MHz and any signals I decode are uploaded automatically to the WSPRnet website.

One of the more unusual signals that I have heard over the last few weeks was DP0POL, the WSPR station on the German polar research vessel Polarstern.

I first noticed this when it was off the west coast of Africa. Between the 22nd of December 2021 and the 3rd of January 2022, I heard the 5-watt signal a total of 39 times. The distances range from 5116 kms to 9705 kms.

I remember checking this a few weeks back and there were no earlier reception before it was off the west coast of Africa. Possibly, it was inside the F2 layer skip zone for me when it was further north.

Back in May of 2021, I was able to track the same ship on 28 MHz as it made its way through the North Sea.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Interview with W1ZY about Phased Vertical antennas for the HF bands

The Ham Radio Live YouTube channel recently had a very interesting interview with William Des Jardines, W1ZY about a Phased Array Vertical Antenna as well as a simple Beverage Antenna. A video of the talk is embedded further down.

I think anyone who is interested in making and experimenting with antennas will find this of interest.

The presentation is a bit light on graphics so let's address that first.

The image above shows the general principle of a phased vertical array. By using phasing lines, signals from each vertical can either be added together and subtracted from each other.

The image above shows the view from above of the radiation pattern. Signals coming from the right are added and there is a small gain of about 3dB. The signals from the left are out of phase and there is a large drop in this direction.

With a relay and suitable phasing lines, the direction of the array can be flipped to the right or left at the flick of a switch. This has obvious advantages for say propagation and antenna tests as opposed to waiting for a Yagi to turn on a mast.

The talk also covers Beverage antennas which are used for receive only, especially on the lower HF bands.

The video is shown below and the part of interest starts at 11:30...

There are a two links for more information.

W1ZY has an article on his substack site HERE

W1ZY's QRZ page also has a LOT of information, see HERE

Sunday, January 23, 2022

US radio amateurs lose 25% of the 3.5 GHz microwave band

Back in October 2020, I had a post about how the FCC were proposing that radio amateurs in the USA would lose the 3.5 GHz (9cm) microwave band.

After some appeals and feedback, the FCC have now announced that US radio amateurs will only lose use of the spectrum from 3.450 to 3.500 GHz from the 14th of April 2022.

This represents a loss of 25% of the entire band which stretches from 3.300 to 3.500 GHz at present. In essence, the band is being reduced from a width of 200 MHz to 150 MHz. 

The current band plan for the part of the spectrum that is being lost is shown below...

The 50 MHz of spectrum that was lost was auctioned off by the US Government for around $22 Billion for 5G services.

The future of the remaining 9cm band for amateur use is by no means certain. In a news article, the ARRL said... "Secondary operations are permitted to continue indefinitely in the remainder of the band, 3.3 – 3.45 GHz, pending future FCC proceedings."

While this loss of spectrum may not matter to most, it does highlight the value of the microwave spectrum in the low GHz range to commercial companies and how there is a very real threat of losing many more parts of the spectrum in future.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

ZP9HTL in Paraguay reports on 5000km TEP opening on 144 MHz to Puerto Rico - Jan 2022

Juan, ZP9HTL in Paraguay sent on some interesting information to me about his experience with Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP) on 144 MHz.

With TEP propagation, signals on the 144 MHz band usually cross the Geomagnetic Equator close to 90 degrees i.e. a right angle. This means that openings tend to happen to the exact same area when the band is open.

This can be seen as the TEP pipeline from Buenos Aires in Argentina to Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba & the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. Likewise, stations in the south of Brazil have a pipeline to Puerto Rico & Guadeloupe.

For ZP9HTL, his pipeline from Paraguay is to Puerto Rico where he is often heard on SSB on 144.300 MHz.

Video... The following clip was sent to me by Juan. 

It shows that what a TEP signal on SSB can sound like. Note the distortion and the very rapid flutter.

Remember, this is a signal on 144 MHz over a 5000km path!

Antenna... On 144 MHz, Juan is using an 11-element LFA Yagi.

DX-Cluster Spots... I have included below the DX Cluster spots for ZP9HTL from the Caribbean. As you can see, they are all from Puerto Rico and they range from the start of the TEP season in September 2021 to now, mid January 2022.

It's interesting to see that the TEP openings happen at pretty much the same time i.e. 00:00 UTC which is about 8pm local time in the evening for the stations concerned.

From these spots, the earliest time is 23:45 UTC and the latest time is 00:39 UTC, a window of about one hour.


Spotter Freq. DX Time Info Country

WP4KJJ-@ 144300 ZP9HTL 23:54 21 Jan 22 59 Paraguay
NP4BM-@ 144300 ZP9HTL 23:54 21 Jan 22 59 tnks tep qso Juan Paraguay
NP4BM-@ 144300 ZP9HTL 00:06 14 Jan 22 59 tks qso Juan Paraguay
WP4G 144300 ZP9HTL 00:39 13 Jan 22 55 in FK68 Paraguay
NP4BM-@ 144300 ZP9HTL 00:30 13 Jan 22 still 59 Paraguay
WP4KJJ-@ 144300 ZP9HTL 00:19 13 Jan 22 Paraguay 
KP4EIT-@ 144300 ZP9HTL 00:10 13 Jan 22 5/2 swl Paraguay
NP4BM-@ 144300 ZP9HTL 00:05 13 Jan 22 58 tks tep qso Paraguay

Friday, January 21, 2022

TEP opening on 144 MHz from Argentina to the Caribbean - 21st Jan 2022

21st January 2022: Just a short report to note that there was another Trans-Equitorial Propagation (TEP) opening on 144 MHz from Argentina & Brazil to the Caribbean on the 21st of January.

The map above shows the paths that were open for Diego, LW2DAF in Buenos Aires.

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
P41E LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5374 km 01:21:18
LW2DAF PJ2BR 2m Q65 5306 km 01:54:59
PJ2BR LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5306 km 01:10:18
LW2DAF PJ4EL 2m Q65 5299 km 01:22:58
LW2DAF PJ4MM 2m Q65 5297 km 01:55:01
PJ4MM LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5297 km 01:49:48
LW2DAF PJ4GR 2m Q65 5294 km 01:54:59
PJ4GR LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5294 km 01:20:48

As you can see, the distances were in the region of 5300kms. Looking through the PSK Reporter website, there were plenty of other stations from Argentina enjoying the opening as well.

There was also an opening from Puerto Rico to Brazil.

Here are the spots from the DX cluster for this opening...

Spotter Freq. DX Time Info Country
LU1FAM-@ 144180 PJ4MM 01:45 21 Jan 22 q65 Bonaire
LU1FAM-@ 144180 P41E 01:23 21 Jan 22 Q65 Aruba
LU2DPW-@ 144180 LU2FGL 01:09 21 Jan 22 GRS Q65B QSO 73 Argentina
LU2DPW-@ 144180 PJ2BR 00:59 21 Jan 22 TKS Q65B QSO 73 Curacao
LU1FAM-@ 144180 PJ2BR 00:53 21 Jan 22 Q65 Curacao
LU1FAM-@ 144180 PJ4GR 00:53 21 Jan 22 Q65 Bonaire
PY5EK 144180 WP4KJJ 00:15 21 Jan 22 Q65B -2 dB 1342 Hz Tnx Tep Puerto Rico

Thursday, January 20, 2022

6000km+ TEP opening on 144 MHz from the Caribbean to S America - 19th Jan 2022

19th January 2022: It was interesting to see that that there was a TEP (Trans-Equitorial Propagation) opening on 144 MHz between the Caribbean and South America. While the opening happened at 01:00 UTC on the 19th, the time for the stations concerned was about 8pm on the evening of the 18th.

The maps above shows the opening on 144 MHz with distances in the region of 4,400 to 6,143 kms being recorded. To put that in context, the distance across the North Atlantic from Ireland to Newfoundland is about 3000kms so the longest contact from Buenos Aires to the Dominican Republic is over twice that distance.

LW2DAF: Diego, LW2DAF in Buenos Aires, Argentina reports that his contact with HI3I in the Domican Republic was a personal distance record. Diego was using the Q65B mode and the log from PSK Reporter is shown below...

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
LW2DAF HI3I 2m Q65 6143 km 00:32:17
HI3I LW2DAF 2m Q65B 6143 km 00:30:34
PJ4EL LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5299 km 01:05:44
LW2DAF PJ4EL 2m Q65 5299 km 00:13:28
PJ4GR LW2DAF 2m Q65B 5294 km 01:44:18
LW2DAF PJ4GR 2m Q65 5294 km 00:23:29

WP4KJJ on Puerto Rico heard two stations from Brazil.
Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
PY5EK 2m Q65 5198 km 01:04:13
PY2OAL 2m Q65 4914 km 01:19:58

FG4SU on Guadeloupe seems to have had a good path into Brazil and was using FT8 instead.
Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
PU4JLV FG4SU 2m FT8 4189 km 01:35:44
FG4SU PU4JLV 2m FT8 4189 km 01:34:11
FG4SU PY2TC 2m FT8 4287 km 01:33:44
PY2TC FG4SU 2m FT8 4287 km 01:04:44
PY2SRB FG4SU 2m FT8 4386 km 01:07:44
FG4SU PY2SRB 2m FT8 4386 km 00:59:02
PU2MBY FG4SU 2m FT8 4421 km 01:02:14
FG4SU PU2MBY 2m FT8 4421 km 01:00:29
PY2OAL FG4SU 2m FT8 4566 km 01:14:14
PY2WLM FG4SU 2m FT8 4725 km 01:32:29

You'll notice from the map above that the TEP signals at 144 MHz tend to stay close to 90 degrees relative to the Geomagnetic equator. The paths tend to run parallel to each other with stations in the Dominican Republic & Curacao working Argentina and Puerto Rico & Guadeloupe working Brazil.

These are the spots from the DX Cluster...
Spotter Freq. DX Time  Info Country
PU4JLV 144174 FG4SU 01:36 19 Jan 22 FT8 -10 dB 1584 Hz Guadeloupe
PU4JLV 144174.8 FG4SU 01:07 19 Jan 22 FT8 -18 dB 1589 Hz Guadeloupe
PY5EK 144180 WP3DN 00:49 19 Jan 22 Q65B -11 dB 901 Hz tnx tep Puerto Rico

While TEP openings are normally associated with the equinox period, it's interesting to see one an opening on 144 MHz in mid-January.

1) For more examples of long distance openings on 144 MHz, see my 144 MHz page HERE

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

South African 40 MHz beacon heard in Rome, Italy - 16th Jan 2022

16th January 2022: Emilio, IK0OKY reports that there was a nice opening on the 40 MHz band on the 16th of January when several amateur radio stations in & near Rome reported reception of the ZS6WAB/B beacon in South Africa.

Emilio writes..." Today, there was a 40 MHz opening from Rome area towards South Africa ZS. The ZS6WAB beacon on 40.675 MHz was heard in JN61 square from 11.15 UTC until 12.30 UTC.

The beacon was heard first from IK0FTA Sergio and then also from some other locals (IW0FFK Marco , IK0SMG Pino and myself).

I received it up to 559 on a cubical quad fractal antenna for 6m. Unfortunately no 6m QSO took place during the period that the beacon was in."

Grazie Emilio.

DX-Cluster spots...

Date & time Spotter QRG Mode DX km Prop. Comments
2022-01-16 12:28:24 IK0OKY (JN61ES) 40.675 CW ZS6WAB/B (KG46RC) 7508 JN61ES<TEP>KG46RC 319 now 
2022-01-16 12:06:59 IK0OKY (JN61ES) 40.675 CW ZS6WAB/B (KG46RC) 7508 JN61ES<TEP>KG46RC still in 
2022-01-16 11:48:38 IK0OKY (JN61ES) 40.675 CW ZS6WAB/B (KG46RC) 7508 JN61ES<TEP>KG46RC 559
2022-01-16 11:16:44 IK0FTA (JN61GV) 40.675 CW ZS6WAB/B (KG46RB) 7522 599 in jn61

Propagation: The solar flux on the day was 116 with an A index of 22 and a K index of 2-3. Considering that the beacon and the stations in Rome are equidistant from the geomagnetic equator, I presume the primary mode of propagation was TEP - Trans-Equatorial Propagation. It's probably no accident that the opening was just after local noon.

Early warming... This report I think shows the real value of the 40 MHz band as an early warning system. There is a huge gap between 28 MHz and 50 MHz bands and the 10m band will be open many many times without the propagation ever reaching 6m.

The 40 MHz band helps bridge this gap and this will become even more important as the solar flux begins to rise and the MUF goes above the 28 MHz band and into the low-VHF spectrum.

On this occasion, there was no opening on the 50 MHz band but that won't always be the case. In the future, there will be times when the reception of a 40 MHz beacon will alert VHF operators to get ready on 50 MHz and to have their beams pointing in the right direction.

1) As always, I have plenty of info on my 40 MHz page.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Overnight opening on 28 MHz from Europe to the W coast of the USA - 14th Jan 2022

At present, nearly all of the openings on the 28 MHz band are during the daylight hours. The solar flux is roughly around the 100-120 mark and there are some F2 layer openings during daylight hours. There is also some mid-Winter Sporadic-E at times but again, this is during daylight hours.

14th January 2022: At about 22:30 to 22:45 UTC, Tom SP5XMU in Poland was one of those who caught an opening to the west coast of the USA on the 28 MHz band. For Tom, this would have been around 11:30 PM.

This is highly unusual and worth noting. It's about 7 hours after the sun has set in Poland so it can't be easily explained the position of the sun and it is also a very northerly path.

At the bottom of this post, I have the FT8 log for SP5XMU for this opening and it shows that there was an opening to Scandinavia at the same time from Poland.

Tom wasn't the only person to catch this opening. Further down this post, I have a list of spots from European stations of US stations on 28 MHz. It suggests that the main opening lasted from about 19:30 to 23:15 UTC.

Auroral-E: It is probably no accident that this opening from Poland to the USA coincided with an aurora and a high k-index of 5-6.

It wasn't the typical 'aurora' where signals are spread out and distorted. After all, digital FT8 signals were being decoded. Instead, it was likely to have been auroral-e propagation.

Distance: However, the distance from SP5XMU to the stations on the west coast of the USA was in the region of 9,000kms.  Aurora-E as the name suggests forms in the E layer of the ionosphere and the maximum range from one hop would be in the range of 2000-2300 kms.

That leaves a huge gap of about 7000kms in the path to the USA. 

How did the signal get from Europe to the west coast of the USA? 
Multi-hop auroral-E? 
Some form of chordal hop auroral-E? 
Did it couple into some ordinary Sporadic-E or F2 layer at the western end of the path?

I've seen a lot of people just explain it away as 'Auroral-E' but it's more complex than that. That's what makes this type of opening so interesting.

50 MHz: I checked the DX cluster and I could see no spots for an opening from North America to Europe on that band.

DX-Cluster spots for European stations spotting the USA on the 28 MHz band...

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Explosion from Tonga volcano detected in Ireland (Non Radio Post)

This is an interesting scientific observation and I thought it might be nice to keep a record of it. I tried to work a radio angle into this post but I failed! 😂 

At 04:10 UTC on the 15th of January 2022, a huge underwater volcano near Tonga in the Pacific exploded and sent a shock wave around the world. It was so big that the sound was heard as a rumble 9000kms away in Alaska.

The video clip above shows the explosion and you can see the shock wave being sent outwards.

What I find really amazing is that this pressure wave was detected at the other side of the planet in Europe.

Cormac, EI4HQ and Alan, EI3EBB both have their own weather stations and are located near the city of Cork on the south coast of Ireland.

At roughly 18:44 to 18:50 UTC, both Cormac and Alan detected the change in pressure on their weather stations.

EI4HQ in Cobh...

When I made the above image, I wasn't sure if it was the Tonga event or not. It later turned out that it was.

EI3EBB in Watergrasshill observed the same spike..

You'll notice that there is also a drop in pressure as the pressure wave passes.

Due to the shortcomings and distortion on the Mercator flat map, the pressure waves from Tonga actually came from the north-west and not from the south-west as the map might suggest.

It was interesting to see that the pressure wave arrived in Cork about 15 minutes or so before it reached weather stations in Essex and Suffolk in the south-east of England.

Short Path & Long Path... Just like in radio, there are two paths for a signal to travel on a globe. The short path is shown above and the long path as shown below.

And sure enough just before 02:00 UTC, the long path pressure wave arrived in Cork. 

The distance for the long path signal was in the region of 24,000 kms.

It's amazing to think that a volcano in the Pacific could cause a change in air pressure at the other side of the planet.

Questions... Like any unusual event, it often raises more questions...

Q. Could the sudden change in air pressure cause a rain shower somewhere in Europe? Was the change enough?

Addendum... This is a more detailed chart from EI4HQ showing the air pressure changes...

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Custom made beacons for the 28 MHz band from AA7DJ


I recently came across this beacon for the 28 MHz band and it thought it might be of interest to others.

While most beacons are built from modified CB radios or home built from parts, there is an option to buy a 'ready to go' beacon from Vlad, AA7DJ in the USA. The beacon is shown above and it runs with an output power of 10 watts on the 28 MHz band although this can be reduced.

The frequency and callsign are given to AA7DJ and he then builds the beacon. Upon arrival, all a station needs to be do is to supply power to the unit and plug in an antenna.

The interior of the beacon is shown above with the frequency synthesizer inside the metal cage on the left and the power amplifier stage with low pass filter on the right.

On his QRZ page, AA7DJ writes..."The synthesizer board has PLL chip, VCO, crystal reference and microcontroller. The last one produces frequency code for PLL. Also it generates CW message and keying sequence for the amplifier board. "

Frequency stability is claimed to be about 10-50 PPM as determined by used crystal. 

The spectrum output with the level of harmonics is shown above. If additional suppression is required then another low pass filter could be added.

Permits... From my understanding, a special license is required to operate a beacon on the 28 MHz band in most parts of the world. In the USA however, the FCC allows radio amateurs to operate beacons on 28 MHz and the VHF bands.

This is specifically for the purpose of ...'observation of propagation or other related experimental activities'. The power limit of 100 watts by the FCC is quite generous in this regards.

In conclusion... While many may want to build their own beacon, there are others who will just want to order a ready built unit and put it on the air.

There is a small but active group of 28 MHz beacon enthusiasts in the USA and many speak highly of this unit built by Vlad, AA7DJ. I don't know how much a unit costs but several have mentioned that it is reasonable.

If anyone is interested in buying a unit then they should contact AA7DJ via his QRZ page.

Addendum - 2nd March 2023: AA7DJ has been in contact to say that he also does designs of 10 W beacons for 28, 40, 50, 144, 222, 432 MHz. Also 8 W for 903 MHz, 7 W for 1296 MHz and 4 W for 2304 MHz.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Update on the prediction for Solar Cycle 25

In a blog post in April 2021, I outlined how Frank Donovan, W3LPL who is one of the top contesters in the USA had made a prediction for the upcoming sunspot cycle 25.

W3LPL wrote... “If the SFI persists below 90 through December 2021, then propagation should improve gradually until a solar maximum weaker than Cycle 24’s arrives in 2024.

If the SFI persists above 110 through December 2021, then propagation should improve rapidly until a solar maximum similar to Cycle 24’s arrives in 2024.

“If the SFI persists above 125 through December 2021, then propagation is likely to improve more rapidly until a solar maximum stronger than Cycle 24’s arrives in 2024.”

(SFI = Solar Flux Index)

As we have now passed December 2021, it's time to look back at the prediction. 

As can be seen from the chart above, the average solar flux for the month of December was 103. This is closest to the the middle prediction which is that solar cycle 25 will be roughly the same as the previous cycle which peaked in 2014. 

This is also very much in line with the main scientific predictions from the like .

Cycle 25 progression... This is the latest chart which shows how the solar flux is progressing against the actual prediction from NASA...

As you can see, it's ahead of schedule at the end of 2021. The big question though is will it stay like this?

Some will claim that a rapid early rise is a sign of a larger than usual solar cycle. Unless I hear something credible, I would suspect we're heading for a subdued peak like 24.

Cycle 25 is going to be good... Sometimes when these predictions about sunspot cycles come out and people speak about them being low, I think some beginners may get the impression that things on the HF bands will be terrible. The answer is that they won't. There will be loads of DX on all the HF bands up to and including 28 MHz.

What it will mean however is that the MUF (maximum usable frequency) may not get up to the 50 MHz bands, especially on East-West paths. If this isn't a priority for you then things on the HF bands will be fine.

Always remember that that predictions are just that... predictions. We'll all have to wait and see how things pan out in reality.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Opening on the 40 MHz band from Michigan to Georgia & Florida - 11th Jan 2022

11th January 2022: In an earlier post, I explained how the first contact between two of the new experimental 40 MHz stations in the USA took place on the 9th of January 2022.

Roughly 48 hours later, the band opened up again with much better conditions.

It starts on the 10th of January with N2OTO in Florida reporting reception of the 40 MHz FT8 signal from WM2XAN in Michigan, a distance of roughly 2040kms. The time was 21:15 UTC which would have been 4:15 PM in the afternoon in Florida.

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
WM2XAN N2OTO 8m FT8 2039 km 21:15:00

Later in the evening, there was an opening after 11pm local time between WM2XEJ in Georgia and WM3XAN in Michigan. This was around 04:15 UTC on the 11th of January.

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
WM2XEJ WM2XAN 8m FT4 1226 km 04:14:58

The two experimental stations then proceeded to complete contacts on FT8, Q64A, FST4, FT4 and SSB over a 20 minute period on 40.662 MHz.

Ken Miller WM2XAN in Michigan gives the following report on his Facebook account... "At about 03:45 conditions between WM2XAN and WM2XEJ began to develop.  First noticed on WSPR, we switched to FT8 and although there was a struggle at first to complete the QSO, it finally happened as conditions began to peak.  Then we began to switch through the modes and making contacts. 

04:02 completed QSO on FT8
04:05 completed QSO on Q64A
04:09 completed QSO on FST4-12s
04:15 completed QSO on FT4
04:22 completed QSO on SSB
This was a long lasting event, with big signals at the beginning and end of the session, with a relatively quick null in the propagation at the mid point of our QSO’s. "

Ken also reports using an ICOM IC-7300 for his 40 MHz experiments.

WSPR... There were also several WSPR reports and it looks like this is becoming the mode of choice for beacon experiments on the 40 MHz band in North America.

These are the stations that heard WM2XAN in Michigan...

Interesting to see VE1PYE was listening from Nova Scotia.

UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid RX rxGrid MHz W SNR drift km
2022-01-10 21:44 WM2XAN EN74 N2OTO EL96wi 40.663894 0.5 -14 -4 2063
2022-01-10 21:52 WM2XAN EN74 N2OTO EL96wi 40.663895 0.5 -15 -4 2063
2022-01-10 22:08 WM2XAN EN74 N2OTO EL96wi 40.663894 0.5 -16 -4 2063
2022-01-10 22:14 WM2XAN EN74 N2OTO EL96wi 40.663894 0.5 -18 -4 2063
2022-01-11 01:20 WM2XAN EN74 K8HTL EN74oh 40.663499 100 -4 0 27
2022-01-11 02:56 WM2XAN EN74 VE1PYE FN84et 40.66347 100 -18 0 1690
2022-01-11 02:58 WM2XAN EN74 VE1PYE FN84et 40.663466 100 -17 0 1690
2022-01-11 06:20 WM2XAN EN74oh WM2XEJ EM83ji 40.663487 100 -22 -4 1226

Outside of K8HTL which is Ken's own amateur radio call, the rest of the signals are typical for one-hop Sporadic-E.

These are the stations that heard WM2XEJ in Georgia...

It's curious to see that there were three reports from KC5LT at 348 kms. Mode of propagation?? Tropo? aircraft scatter? Meteor scatter? It seems to be a bit too close of Sporadic-E. 

It's a bit like some of the signals in that range on the 28 MHz band, it can be hard to be sure exactly sure of the propagation mode unless you're sitting at the radio and you use other clues.

UTC (y-m-d) TX txGrid RX rxGrid MHz W SNR drift km 
2022-01-11 03:28 WM2XEJ EM83 WM2XAN EN74oh 40.663458 10 -11 0 1214
2022-01-11 05:56 WM2XEJ EM83 WM2XAN EN74oh 40.663462 10 -25 1 1214
2022-01-11 06:04 WM2XEJ EM83 N2OTO EL96wi 40.663453 10 4 0 841
2022-01-11 06:04 WM2XEJ EM83 WM2XAN EN74oh 40.663462 10 -10 0 1214
2022-01-11 06:18 WM2XEJ EM83 WM2XAN EN74oh 40.663462 10 -11 0 1214
2022-01-11 06:22 WM2XEJ EM83ji WM2XAN EN74oh 40.663466 10 -6 -2 1226
2022-01-11 14:24 WM2XEJ EM83ji KC5LT EM86 40.663454 10 -21 -1 348
2022-01-11 15:00 WM2XEJ EM83ji KC5LT EM86 40.663453 100 -21 -3 348
2022-01-11 15:04 WM2XEJ EM83ji KC5LT EM86 40.663454 100 -21 1 348

While none of the above is ground breaking propagation wise, it is never the less a first for these experimental 40 MHz stations in the USA.

1) For more info on the 8m band, check out my 40 MHz page...

Monday, January 10, 2022

2021 Report for the 40-MHz EI1KNH beacon

In this post, we'll look at the EI1KNH beacon in Ireland which transmits on 40.013 MHz and how many times it was spotted on the DX Cluster in 2021.

The map above shows the spots for 2021. A total of 21 stations reported the beacon the cluster which is down a little on the 26 in 2020. 

If we count just a maximum of one spot per station per day then there were 52 spots in 2021 compared to 77 in 2020.

Update - 11th Jan 2021: After posting this, I subsequently found out that the DXSummit cluster is missing a LOT of the dx spots for the 40 MHz band. I'll have to rework and update this post.

These are the top spotters of the EI1KNH 40 MHz beacon (again, based on counting just one spot maximum per person per day)

As the map shows above, most were in the region of 500 to 1700kms from the beacon which is a typical distance for Sporadic-E signals at 40 MHz during the Summer season.

The report for the year 2020 can be seen HERE

The EI1KNH 40 MHz beacon which is just to the south of Dublin first became operational in May of 2020.

DX Cluster... If you do hear the beacon then make sure to report it on dx-clusters like DXSummit or DXMaps as some of the other clusters ignore spots for 40 MHz as they assume they're a mistake.

More information about the EI1KNH beacon can be found here...

For more information on the 40 MHz band, go to this page...

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Contact on the 40 MHz band in the USA between two experimental stations - 9th Jan 2022


9th January 2022: In the second half of 2021, a number of amateur radio stations in the USA applied for experimental permits for the 40 MHz band... see this previous post.

On the 9th of January at 04:15 UTC, WM2XEJ in Georgia managed to complete a two way FT8 contact with WM2XAN in Michigan on 40.662 MHz. (Note: Local time in the USA would have been late on the evening of the 8th)

The distance was around 1,230 kms and it's possible that the propagation mode was mid-Winter Sporadic-E. WM2XAN reports that it may have been due to Auroral-E. The K-index was at 5 late on the 8th of January which gives some credence to the Au-E theory.

While some of the US experimental stations have exchanged WSPR reports up to now, this is I think the first actual contact between two US experimental stations on the 40 MHz band.

The PSKReporter website shows that WM2XEJ was also heard locally by KS4OT in Georgia.

Once we get to late April and early May and the start of the Sporadic-E season, 40 MHz contacts and reports like this should become more common.

1) For more information on the 40 MHz band, see my page...

Friday, January 7, 2022

2021 Report for the 40-MHz OZ7IGY beacon

In this post, we'll look at the OZ7IGY beacon in Denmark which transmits on 40.071 MHz and how many times it was spotted on the DX Cluster in 2021.

Looking through the DX Summit DX-Cluster, I could only find 12 spots for the beacon on 40 MHz in 2021 and that was from just 9 stations. This is in marked contrast to the 146 spots from 16 stations in 2020.

(The 21M085 is I presume a CB station in Sweden who spotted it on the DX cluster. He was supposed to be 116km from the beacon so I made a rough assumption about his location.)

I was wondering initially if there was something wrong with the cluster as there seems to have been a large drop in DX spots in 2021.

There were no spots during the months of June, July or August which suggests to me that the beacon was off air during the Sporadic-E season. Considering I can see plenty of spots for the Irish 40 MHz beacons during the same time period, it would certainly suggest that the Danish 40 MHz was not transmitting.

The beacon itself was certainly off air while a fault in the PA stage was being repaired in September & October so perhaps it was operating with no RF output from late May 2021 until the end of August 2021??

Here are the top spotters for 2021...

# of spots for OZ7IGY/B on the DX Cluster

Curious Fact... As of the end of 2021, there are a total of about 500 spots for the OZ7IGY beacon since it first became operational on 40 MHz in 2007. Out of all of the spots, there isn't one from outside Europe. There are no double hop Sporadic-E reports. There must have been plenty of times when the 40 MHz signal was audible in North America and South Africa.

DX Cluster... If you do hear the beacon then make sure to report it on dx-clusters like DXSummit or DXMaps as some of the other clusters ignore spots for 40 MHz as they assume they're a mistake.

More information about the OZ7IGY beacon can be found here...

For more information on the 40 MHz band, go to this page...

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Listening to the EI1KNH 40 MHz beacon during the 2022 Quadrantids meteor shower

The 2022 Quadrantid meteor shower was predicted to peak at 21:00 UTC on the 3rd of January and as an experiment, I wanted to see if I could detect the peak using the EI1KNH beacon on the 40 MHz band.

First, let me set out what I did. The EI1KNH beacon transmits on 40.013 MHz using both CW and the PI4 digital mode. It is 213 kms from my location and is is badly screened by mountains to the south-west of the beacon site.

Using just a 28 MHz vertical antenna, I listened for two 18-hour periods for two days i.e. 18:00 UTC on the 3rd of January to 12:00 UTC on the 4th of January AND from 18:00 UTC on the 4th of January to 12:00 UTC on the 5th of January. For both 18 hour sessions, I monitored the frequency for PI4 signals.

Some of the decodes are shown above so I had some success. This is the distribution of decodes...

The chart with the Blue bars shows the number of decodes on the 3rd & 4th of January and I had 22 decodes in total. There seems to be a peak in the number of PI4 decodes from 02:00 UTC to 08:00 UTC on the morning of the 4th of January.

During the 18 hour period on the 4th & 5th of January, I had just 8 decodes.

Was the experiment a success??? Well... maybe. I came to following conclusions...

1) To do the experiment properly, I should probably have monitored over several days. Maybe something like 2 days before the peak and 2 days after.

2) I don't think PI4 is the best mode for meteor scatter. The PI4 transmission is about 20 seconds in length and many of the bursts heard were quite short. I'm not sure how much of the signal I would need to hear for a valid decode but I suspect I was only getting the really big meteor scatter bursts. As can be seen from the chart, the 'peak' is hardly outstanding. 

3) With the distance around 210kms, I think I'm a bit too close. If I was further away... say 500-1000kms then I think the meteor scatter bursts on 40 MHz would be much better. As I'm only 210 kms, I am also getting some aircraft reflections and I'm not 100% all of the signals heard were actually meteor scatter. The longer distance would also rule out any tropo.

In conclusion: The attraction of PI4 for me was that I could just leave the radio on a frequency and count the number of decodes afterwards. It was a worthwhile experiment but I get the feeling that I was only seeing the 'peak' with a very low resolution. 

I'll probably try some experiments again for a future meteor shower but I'll use a different signal and mode.