Sunday, December 31, 2023

ARRL raise membership fees as numbers drop

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the national society for radio amateurs in the USA and is one of the largest if not the largest such organisation in the world. They also produce the QST magazine which is one of the largest amateur radio magazines in the world.

Back in July of 2023, they announced that they would be increasing their membership fees by between 20% to 71% at the start of 2024. In this post, I'll look at some of the changes.

Membership - US Members...

  • US members of the ARRL paid $49 per annum up to and including 2023. For that fee, they were able to receive the QST magazine by standard post. As of the 1st of January 2024, that membership fee now increases by 20% to $59 and for this, they will have access to only the online digital version of QST.
  • If US members wish to keep receiving QST by standard mail then they will have to pay $84, a 71% increase on their old subscription of $49.
  • US members who were getting QST by first class mail will see their subscription increase by 37.5% from $96 to $132.
  • Three year membership fees follow much the same pattern... 3-year membership with QST mailed out goes from $140 to $174 for membership and digital QST only, a jump of 24%. To keep getting QST by mail for 3-years, members will have to pay $249 instead of $140, a 71% jump.
Membership - International Members... As non-US members, it's probably fair to say that most international members have joined to get access to the QST magazine.
  • International members who currently get the digital version of QST will see their fees go up by 20% from $49 to $59. The 3-year option goes up by 24% from $140 to $174.
  • International members who currently get QST by standard mail will see their fees increase by 25% from $76 to $95. The 3-year option goes up by 30% from $217 to $282.
Big changes as numbers fall... The last increase in membership fees was 8-years ago in 2016 so some may feel that an increase is inevitable. I suspect the size of the jump this time though will be too much for some.

In 2022, the ARRL saw an unexpected 4% drop in membership numbers as can be seen above. This I presume was due to the cost of living crisis and inflation and for some, ARRL membership was something they could do without. This suggests that ARRL membership is sensitive to price and all of this happened well before the price increase at the start of 2024.

The ARRL membership numbers since 2001 are shown above. You can see the strong growth up until 2015 and then the drop once the membership fee was increased from $39 to $49.

In 2016, the membership fees were increased when the numbers were at a peak. That is in marked contrast to now when membership seems to be in decline. They have yet to announce the 2023 membership numbers and there may well be a mini-surge as people avail of the lower prices before the prices go up. 

However, the latest stats from the FCC shows that the number of radio amateurs in the USA has dropped about 2% in 2022 and is back down to roughly what they were in 2018. It seems that a large recovery in ARRL membership in 2023 is unlikely. 

Does the ARRL represent radio amateurs in the USA??... At the end of 2022, there were just over 769,000 amateur radio callsigns in the United States. The ARRL membership at the end of 2022 was 151,840. This means that just 19.7% of radio amateurs in the United States are members of the ARRL. Back in 2015, that figure was 23.2%.

This seems to me to be a very low figure and it does raise the question about  how any organisation can claim to be a national organisation when they can only attract less than 20% of the total number of radio amateurs in their country.

If we were to look at the UK, there are about 101,000 licences on issue. Due to multiple licences, this in reality means that there are almost 70,000 licensed operators. The RSGB has about 21,200 members which is about 30% of the amateur radio population in the UK. This is in marked contrast to the figure for the ARRL.

UK members of the RSGB receive the RadCom magazine and have to pay £65 per annum ($83) which is similar to the new ARRL fee. Why does membership of the ARRL in the USA seem so poor compared to the RSGB in the UK?

Looking ahead???... With membership falling and a hike in membership, it seems likely that the next few years will be turbulent ones for the ARRL. It currently represents less than 20% of radio amateurs in the USA and that figure seems likely to keep dropping.

If the membership numbers drop a significant amount then that's going to put pressure on the finances of the organisation and it's likely a review of costs will be needed. It's obvious that a full colour printed magazine that is posted out to members is going to be increasingly more expensive and difficult in the future.

As for a solution?... There are a multitude of posts online with people complaining about the ARRL but there seem to be very few solutions. Increasing the membership fees seems like a short term fix but I suspect it's only delaying the inevitable. Sooner or later, they're going to have to look at costs and make cuts.

From my own perspective, I used to be an overseas member of the ARRL in the late 1990's and early 2000's. At the time, information about amateur radio was at a premium and the QST magazine was very informative.

Fast forward to today and we have a multitude of websites, blogs, podcasts, social media, YouTube, etc. The ARRL as a content creator now has to compete with all of these other sources which are mostly free. It's already hard enough to keep up with all of the information that's available online for free without having to pay to look at what's behind a paywall.

Video... In this video, ARRL Director of Marketing and Innovation Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, chats with Kevin Thomas, W1DED, host of W1DED WW Ham Radio on YouTube, about the recent survey of members where 20,000 members responded and about the ARRL itself.

In summary... It's in no-ones interest to have a weak ARRL. As can be seen at the recent ITU conference in Doha, some amateur radio bands are under threat and the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) needs strong member societies to support its work.

I suspect the next few years will be difficult ones for the ARRL as their membership seems likely to drop. They have an increasingly elderly membership base that wants things to stay the same in a world that is rapidly moving to digital.

It seems to me that that the next decade is likely to be a difficult one for the ARRL as they will have to make major changes to stay relevant.


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Twice around the globe on 21 MHz and 80,000km echoes

Salvadaor, EA5Y near Madrid in Spain recently carried out some interesting tests on the 21 MHz (15m) band at the start of December 2023 and heard his own signal go twice around the world for a total path length of 80,000 kms.

First of all, let's set out the conditions. It's the 5th of December 2023 and the time is 08:30 UTC. Sunrise in Madrid is at 07:22 UTC which was about an hour earlier.

EA5Y is transmitting on 21.022 MHz using 1-kilowatt into a 4-element Yagi beaming at 240 degrees. He is sending a series of single dots and is listening for echoes.

The view from the antenna is shown above and 240 degrees is to the left of 'WEST' and should be close to 'VK2 long path'. There are mountains in the distance but they are some way off and EA5Y probably has a nice low angle of radiation from this antenna at this height.

Echoes... This is the audio plot from Salvador...

Going from the left...

1) He has a backscatter signal at 25-milliseconds which is too short for the human ear to separate from the initial dot.

2) The signal travels around the world and arrives back in Spain 40,000kms later.

3) The signal continues and goes around the globe a second time and arrives back 80,000kms after initially setting off.

Here are some interesting observations....

a) Salvador tried beaming to the north-east in the opposite direction and the echoes were much weaker. He wonders if the path was skewed? i.e. it's not as simple as the map at the top of the post would suggest.

b) He also tried listening to an online receiver based in New Zealand on the 2nd of December and this was 40kms from his antipodal point. You can hear the audio below...

You can clearly hear the signal reaching New Zealand for the first time at 20,000 kms and then going around the globe again to arrive back in New Zealand again at about 60,000 kms.

No doubt there is some antipodal focusing going on here and multiple paths and options appear for the signal instead of the usual short path / long path options.

As for the propagation mode, it's obvious via the F2 layer but there is probably some chordal hop involved with the signal going between different points of the ionosphere without needing a reflection off the ground.

We often see reports of long path echoes but it's interesting to see a report of a signal going around the world twice.

Further tests??? ... The obvious question is just how many times does the signal travel around the world? Are there times of the day when the signal is ever present going around the world multiple times before conditions change and the path breaks?

I wonder if it would be possible to decode some of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc echoes with a digital signal? Something like the MSK144 meteor scatter mode using fast decode? Some other mode? 

Is there some weak signal mode that is capable of decoding your own weak echoes without relying on looking at ticks on an audio plot?

Maybe there isn't but I'm just putting it out there in case someone wants to investigate.

Previous posts...

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

2) Long Path Propagation on the 17m HF band (VO1FOG) - Dec 2022 

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Video - From Signals to Solutions: Amateur Radio's Impact on the Future of Engineering

The IRTS president Enda Broderick, EI2II recently gave a presentation to Engineers Ireland about amateur radio titled 'From Signals to Solutions: Amateur Radio's Impact on the Future of Engineering and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths)'

It was described as follows... "IRTS President and engineer Enda Broderick explores how the modern version of Amateur Radio can impact the interest of future generations to look at Engineering differently. The hobby has all the elements associated with STEAM and can be used to develop a creative and fun environment to develop within."

The video embedded above is aimed at those who might have an interest in science and technology but don't know much about amateur radio.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

3275km opening on 144 MHz between Madeira Islands and Denmark - 17th Dec 2023

There has been some remarkable tropo conditions in Europe over the last few days with some stations completing contacts on the 144 MHz band in excess of 2000kms. 

One of the longest contacts was that shown above... an amazing 3,275 km contact using FT8 between Thomas, OV3T in Denmark and Stefan, CT9/OM3RG on the Madeira Islands. See report from Stafan at the bottom of the post. Thomas reports using 700-800w into a 2 x 11-element Yagi on a 18m tower. 

As can be seen from the map above, it is mostly a sea path but it does have to cross some land.

Bernd, DF2ZC in Germany also reports working CT9/OM3RG and the distance for this 2m contact was 2,818 kms. Bernd reports using EME power to 4 x 18-element M2 Yagi. Bernd also reports that the path had to cross over 1800m high mountains in the north-west of Spain. 

Propagation Mode???... The long path over the sea would suggest it was one of the marine ducts that we have seen in the past resulting in really long distance contacts. The obstructed path however from DF2ZC to the Madeira Islands would suggest an elevated duct. Was it a combination of a marine duct near the surface and an elevated duct?

The tropo forecast by Pascal, F5LEN certainly suggests a good sea path for some areas.

I think some people will have their own ideas but I don't think anyone can be certain on this one.

Update: See bottom of post for another propagation map.

Link... For examples of other long distance contacts on the 2m band, see my 144 MHz page.

Addendum 1: Thanks to Stefan, CT9/OM3RG for sending on this additional information.

Stefan reports that he was using 100-watts from an ICOM IC-9700 into 2 x 9-element LFA Yagi.

He reports that he worked as many stations as he could with his 100-watts. He heard lots of other stations from Germany (DL), Belgium (ON) and Netherlands (PA) but they couldn't hear him.

This is a list of stations that Stefan worked on the 17th & 18th of December 2023. 3000km+ stations in red, 2500km+ in orange. CW in bold.

20231217 7:02 F6DBI IN88IJ FT8 2085
20231217 9:36 MW0AXA IO81FQ FT8 2371
20231217 9:37 GW7SMV IO81LN FT8 2378
20231217 9:38 G4CBW IO83UB FT8 2546
20231217 9:40 EI9KP IO54MB FT8 2450
20231217 9:44 G8JLY IO82WG FT8 2480 
20231217 9:45 G0PQO IO92UA FT8 2365
20231217 9:46 M0PNN IO82TS FT8 2516
20231217 9:49 G4FUF JO01GN FT8 2530
20231217 10:12 F6EGD IN88HR FT8 2110
20231217 10:14 G4EZP JO01GN FT8 2530
20231217 10:25 G8HGN JO01FO FT8 2530
20231217 10:28 EI8KN IO62IE FT8 2296
20231217 10:30 F6HRO IN88JQ FT8 2114
20231217 10:32 G7GXK IO90IS FT8 2378
20231217 10:40 G8TTI IO81WM FT8 2408
20231217 10:42 2E1EMK IO91BI FT8 2404
20231217 10:47 G4BNM IO93EV FT8 2644
20231217 12:04 G4ELW IO81MC FT8 2337
20231217 18:21 G4ZFJ JO01HO FT8 2538
20231217 18:22 CT7AUS IM58HT FT8 968
20231217 18:24 G0LGS IO81WV FT8 2444
20231217 18:25 G8GON IO80HP FT8 2281
20231217 18:27 G4KWQ IO92AQ FT8 2523
20231217 18:28 M0BUL IO82NG FT8 2450
20231217 18:29 G4NBS JO02AF FT8 2564
20231217 18:30 M6JAY IO90HV FT8 2387
20231217 18:30 G7RAU IO90IR FT8 2377
20231217 18:31 G4DCV IO91OF FT8 2442
20231217 18:31 G0BIX JO01CI FT8 2498
20231217 18:32 G0ODR JO02OP FT8 2651
20231217 18:32 G0JDL JO02SI FT8 2642
20231217 18:33 PA4ZP JO21RK FT8 2766
20231217 18:38 G1OJS IO90JU FT8 2391
20231217 18:43 G0LTG IO81RF FT8 2367
20231217 18:44 G6HIE JO00DW FT8 2467
20231217 18:47 PA3BIY JO22HB FT8 2768
20231217 19:22 G3TKF IO81SJ FT8 2386
20231217 19:24 M0CFV IO91UM FT8 2489
20231217 19:25 G4ZTR JO01KW FT8 2577
20231217 19:28 G7WIR JO01BJ FT8 2497
20231217 19:28 G3XDY JO02OB FT8 2602 
20231217 19:29 G3XDY JO02OB FT8 2602
20231217 19:31 F6EAS IN98LV FT8 2235
20231217 19:32 G4GFI IO91VH FT8 2475
20231217 19:34 OV3T JO46CM FT8 3275
20231217 20:09 GW4SHF IO82HP FT8 2466
20231217 20:11 G4RGK IO91ON FT8 2471
20231217 20:13 PA2M JO21IP FT8 2741
20231217 20:16 G4AEP IO91NJ FT8 2453
20231217 20:19 G4KPZ IO92WK FT8 2575
20231217 20:21 G0JJG JO02ME FT8 2605
20231217 21:42 PA2CHR JO32DB FT8 2854
20231217 21:48 DG6JF/P JO33QN FT8 3017
20231217 21:50 PA3DZL JO21LS FT8 2763
20231217 22:08 G4DHF IO92UU FT8 2605
20231217 22:10 PA3BIY JO22HB FT8 2768
20231217 22:20 G0LTG IO81RF CW 2367
20231217 22:21 G4DHF IO92UU CW 2605
20231217 22:27 G0LTG IO81RF CW 2367
20231217 22:42 ON4KHG JO10XO FT8 2626
20231217 23:21 G0GMB IO92NB FT8 2511

20231218 6:37 F6KHM IN78RJ FT8 2028
20231218 6:39 G4FUF JO01GN FT8 2530
20231218 6:46 F5DQK JN18GR FT8 2413
20231218 6:50 G4EZP JO01GN FT8 2530
20231218 6:51 F6GNR IN97FD FT8 2069
20231218 6:53 EA1M IN53TI FT8 1399
20231218 6:55 G4RRA IO80BS FT8 2272
20231218 7:24 G4MKF IO91HJ FT8 2431
20231218 7:37 ON4KHG JO10XO FT8 2626
20231218 7:46 ON4KHG JO10XO FT4 2626
20231218 7:55 G3XDY JO02OB FT4 2602
20231218 8:36 M0VXX IO90 FT8 
20231218 8:40 EA7JCR IM67WK FT8 1129
20231218 8:47 G3WZT IO90UX FT8 2443
20231218 8:49 G4DDK JO02PA FT8 2603
20231218 8:52 M0CKM IO90QT FT8 2414
20231218 8:54 G4FSG JO02PC FT8 2610
20231218 8:55 EA1YV IN52OC FT8 1268
20231218 8:59 G3WZT IO90UX CW 2443
20231218 9:02 M0CKM IO90QT CW 2414
20231218 9:10 EA1DFP IN53XI FT8 1416
20231218 9:12 G6HIE JO00DW FT8 2467
20231218 9:20 EA1CCM IN52QG FT8 1291
20231218 9:21 G3ZSS IO90NU FT8 2406
20231218 9:23 G3SJX IO91LC FT8 2420
20231218 9:44 DF7KF JO30GU FT8 2785
20231218 9:45 OQ4U JO20KV FT8 2696
20231218 10:01 PA1BVM JO21RO FT8 2778
20231218 10:15 PA3DOL JO22MT FT8 2845
20231218 10:30 PA3DOL JO22MT FT8 2845
20231218 10:35 G0JJG JO02ME CW 2605
20231218 10:47 G4CKS IO91VL FT8 2489
20231218 10:59 DF2ZC JO30RN FT8 2818
20231218 11:45 DL8YE JO32TC Q65A 2929
20231218 13:11 G4HSK JO01FS FT8 2544
20231218 13:18 G4BWP JO02FH FT8 2590
20231218 13:19 G0LQI IO80SP FT8 2319
20231218 13:23 PA0CAB JO22DA FT8 2748
20231218 13:34 PA3DOL JO22MT FT8 2845
20231218 15:38 DL1YDI JO42FA Q65A 2969
20231218 16:02 DM1CG JO30GU Q65A 2785
20231218 16:26 DM1AC JO30IV Q65A 2797
20231218 18:46 PA3BIY JO22HB FT8 2768
20231218 18:48 PA3FYC JO31AF FT8 2783
20231218 19:11 PA5Y JO21VO Q65A 2795
20231218 19:39 DL5EBS JO31NH Q65A 2848
20231218 19:54 ON4CLQ JO11SE FT8 2647
20231218 20:09 F5RZC JO10JG FT8 2539
20231218 20:50 ON4MU/P JO20ET FT8 2663
20231218 21:01 DL5EBS JO31NH FT8 2848

Addendum 2: PA3AUC supplies the following chart which suggests that the opening was due to an elevated duct at 500-750m.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Meteor scatter experiment with the 2023 Geminid shower

In this post, I'll outline how I used an amateur radio beacon 500kms away to find the peak of the 2023 Geminids meteor shower and what else I noticed.

Introduction... Back in 2022, a new radio beacon called GB3MBA was put on air on the 50 MHz band and its primary purpose was carrying out meteor scatter experiments. Located near the town of Mansfield in the centre of England, the beacon runs 75-watts into a small Moxon antenna which beams straight up.

Unlike most amateur radio beacons, this one is basically a carrier that is on nearly all of the time which is exactly what is needed for meteor scatter experiments. The main coverage area is the UK itself but as I'm 502 kms from the beacon, I'm close enough for it to be of use.

I expected that most of the signals that I would hear would be from meteors burning up over Wales and would be arriving at my location about 20 degrees above the horizon.

Experiment Objectives... This is what I wanted to do...

  • Carry out an experiment as a 'proof of concept', take measurements, gain experience and see how I could improve on it.
  • Take 'hard measurements' with real data as opposed to just forming an opinion.
  • See if I could plot and find the peak of the 2023 Geminid meteor shower as a form of 'citizen science'.
Methodology & Equipment... For the previous few days before the peak, I was listening to meteor bursts from the beacon to establish the best method to carry out the experiment.

Radio... I was using an old Kenwood TS-690 amateur radio transceiver which still works fine and is pretty sensitive. I tuned it to 50.408 MHz and set the mode to CW. It drifts a few Hz with the changes of temperature in the shack but it was fine for this experiment. I just needed to be careful to make sure I was always on frequency.

Antenna... In the run up to the experiment, I used a 2-element Yagi in my attic beaming 120-degrees (east-south-east) to get ready. This was beaming about 45 degrees away from the beacon and being indoors, it wasn't optimum. Just before the experiment, I built a vertical T2LT (flowerpot) half-wave antenna and mounted it about 6-metres above the ground. It had a clear view of the sky towards Wales and the beacon.

Software... I used the SpectrumLab programme to look at the audio spectrum so that I could see any bursts and pings of signal. Under the 'Quick Settings', I used Slow Morse Reception ("QRSS") and I then selected 'Slow CW, 30 sec/dot'. 

I knew it wasn't practical to look at a screen for hours on end. At this setting, the audio spectrum is about 30 Hz wide and it takes about 1h 20m for the signals to drift from right to left across the screen. What this meant in reality was that I could look at the screen every 60-80 mins, count the signals on the screen and record the number of pings and bursts.

What to record?... I knew whatever I did, it had to be consistent for the observing period. I decided to use the number of signals seen in a 30-minute period. If it was a long burst or a short ping, I counted it as one signal. 

This raises the obvious question... should I count the number of pings and bursts, should I record the strong signals versus the number of weak signals? The problem is where do I draw the line? I knew I'd see long bursts, short pings and everything in between. It was the same for the signal strength... what's a 'strong signal'? 

I decided I just wanted 'hard data'. Was there a meteor scatter signal present on the screen... Yes or No. It's simple and there's no ambiguity.

Time period... For the experiment, I counted the number of meteor scatter signals from 17:30 UTC on the 14th of December to 22:00 UTC on the 15th of December 2023...a period of 28 hours and 30 minutes. This time frame coincided with the predicted peak of the Geminid meteor shower.

Results... This is the chart that I generated for the 28.5 hour period.

The recording period starts at 17:30 UTC on the 14th of December when the Geminid constellation and radiant point would be just above the horizon. I'll break down the chart in more detail below but the key thing to note is the peak at about 20:00 UTC on the 14th of December.

I had intended to stop recording early in the morning of the 15th but I was wondering if the peak was really the peak? Would there be another peak 24-hours later when the radiant point would be at the some position in the sky? As you can see, there was no peak 24-hours later. I had actually recorded the peak of the Geminids on the 14th.

Results - Time Frame - 17:30 UTC 14th Dec to 05:30 UTC on the 15th of December... The peak, the dip and the highest radiant...

The first 12-hours is shown above in more detail.

The start... I did a search on Google and it said that the constellation Gemini would rise above the horizon in London at 17:23 UTC. I'm 8.5 degrees west which means it would be 33 mins later... 17:56 UTC. The mid point might be say 17:39 UTC? I found another website which said that the radiant point would rise around 16:07 UTC??

This is further complicated by the fact that we're really looking at a time when meteors from radiant point in the Geminids would be hitting the atmosphere 100kms about Wales? I think 17:30 was a good enough time to start.

The peak... Between 19:00 and 20:30 UTC, I had counts of 15, 19 & 21 for each of the 30-minute intervals.

This is a screenshot I took during this period.

First, I'll explain what you are looking at. The vertical axis is a 30 Hz wide segment of the audio spectrum. The screen is moving from right to left and the white dotted lines are the 5-minute time intervals.

If I was hearing the beacon signal directly, it would be a solid yellow line running from right to left across the centre of the screen.

What you are looking at are the pings and bursts of meteor scatter signals which are spread out across the audio spectrum due to doppler shift.

Prior to the shower, I had seen that the peak was expected at 19:30 UTC on the 14th of Dec. Looking at my screenshot, I think the peak of the 2023 meteor shower occurred between 19:55 and 20:20 UTC on the 14th of December.

The dip??... I did make a note of how weak the reflections were from 22:30 and 00:00 UTC and this can be clearly seen in the chart above. 

As the meteor shower radiant moves slowly across the sky, the angles between the transmitter, receiver and the trails of the meteors will change. At some points, the meteor trails will be parallel between my location and the beacon and at other points, the trails will be perpendicular.

I suspect the dip is due to the geometry of the meteor trails but I'm not sure. It could also be just a statistical error. I would need to repeat the observations on several days around this time period to see if it repeats.

Maximum elevation... At about 01:30 UTC, the radiant point was supposed to be at its highest elevation which was about 71 degrees above the horizon.

Before the experiment, I was wondering if this mattered? Would there be some sort of peak when the radiant peak was at its highest point in the sky? The answer seems to be no, there is no peak.

Results - Time Frame - 01:30 UTC to 11:00 UTC on the 15th of December... The daily morning peak...

When it comes to random meteors entering the atmosphere, the best time for signals tends be around 6am local time. This is because the speed of the earths rotation is added to the speed of the meteors resulting in more energy to dissipate.

This enhancement can be clearly seen in the chart above. It increases after 02:00 UTC and decreases after 10:00 UTC. For me at least, it seemed to be an eight hour window.

The converse is also true. At 6pm local time, the speed of the earth's rotation is subtracted from the original speed of the meteors.

This means that the peak of the 2023 Geminids at about 20:00 UTC happened just two hours after 6pm for me which isn't a great time.

As I was looking at the original chart with the 28.5 hour display, I realised that I was looking at two peaks but both were completely different. One is a fixed peak and the other is a variable peak.

The fixed peak was the peak of the Geminids at about 20:00 UTC on the 14th of December. That's fixed, the peak is the peak.

The morning peak however will depend on where you are. Somewhere in the world, the peak of the Geminids meteor shower will coincide with 6am local time. That turns out to the western half of the Pacific. Anyone in say Hawaii, Alaska, Korea, Japan, east China and the Philippines should have seen some very good meteor bursts and pings. That is of course conditional on having the radiant point above the horizon and that will depend on the location.

Results - Time Frame - 09:00 to 22:00 UTC on the 15th of December... This is the last 13 hours of the plot in more detail...

The radiant point for the Geminids sets about 10:00 UTC and a drop in numbers can be seen. The signals from about 10:00 to 17:30 UTC are random meteors and are not Geminids as the radiant point is below the horizon.

You can see it was particularly poor from 16:30 to 17:30 UTC. Then the Geminids radiant point comes above the horizon and the numbers increase again.

Other observations... Aircraft Scatter... I've seen plenty of aircraft scatter on signals before but I was really surprised to see it on a signal from 500kms away.

These can be very easy to miss. On the QRSS 3 setting, these appear as almost horizontal lines due to the larger vertical scale and faster scrolling speed. On QRSS 30 as used above, the slant becomes a lot more obvious.

As you can see, the doppler shift is in the region of 5-7 Hz. When I was seeing these signals appear, I would check FlightRadar 24 and sure enough, there was often a large plane to the west of Aberstwyth on the west coast of Wales. This is around the halfway point from the beacon to my location.

This suggests to me that while the GB3MBA beacon is 'beaming straight up', there is plenty of RF heading towards the horizon as well.

You'll notice as well that the trails last for about 90 seconds which should be enough for digital modes like MSK144 or possibly FT4? I'd have no doubt that a lot of those one off FT8 decodes on the 10m and VHF bands that people get are due to aircraft scatter like this.

Additional Notes...

  • I couldn't tell if any meteor heard was a Geminid or not for the time the radiant was above the horizon.
  • Despite all of the 'streaks' visible on the screen, the signals were actually pretty weak. Many were not audible to my ear and I'd say the strongest signals were probably something like 519. 
  • The process that I used was very labour and time intensive. I literally had to set an alarm to wake up every 60-80 mins overnight and take the measurements.
  • My resolution was 30 mins which may have limited the resolution in that I couldn't tell if two very close bursts were one or two.

In Conclusion... I think the experiment overall was a success. I was able to see the peak of the 2023 Geminid meteor shower which was from 19:55 to 20:20 UTC on the 14th of December.

I'm sure there is room for improvement but I think this is a useful 'citizen science' project which can be done by anyone with a good receiver and antenna. This method is also easy enough that it's not restricted to those from a radio background. 

Anyone with a serious interest in astronomy and meteor research could do this and consider it as an additional tool. This system works regardless of the weather. While 'visual' amateur astronomers need clear skies, the 'radio' based amateur astronomer can carry on regardless.

It might make an excellent project for an astronomy or radio club and maybe give a presentation to students as part of a STEM outreach programme

I think it proves that GB3MBA is indeed a very useful beacon for meteor scatter research and I think the challenge now is for them to make more people aware of it.

You can tell from the length of this post that this was a deep dive down the rabbit hole for me. As soon as I had one question answered, I thought up of two more additional questions.

The future??.. I'd see these as areas for improvement.

  1. My antenna was a vertical half-wave which is omni-directional. I think something like a 3-element Yagi would give me at least 6dB more gain, reduce noise and result in more pings and bursts.
  2. My experiment was for 28.5 hours with a resolution of 30 mins. I think in the future, I would use QRSS 3 with a finer resolution of 10 minutes and plot the period around the predicted peak in more detail.

More information...

For more information on the GB3MBA beacon, go to

There is also the BRAMS beacon in Belgium on 49.970 MHz which might be of interest...

Saturday, December 16, 2023

New WSPR receiver from RemoteQTH

RemoteQTH is a small company in the Czech Republic and they have just announced the release of a new receiver for WSPR. 

It can be used from 0.1 to 28 MHz and is described as follows..."The openWSPR receiver is a stand-alone HF receiver for WSPR. Just connect an antenna, internet and a DC power supply and you're ready to go! With this tiny receiver you can decode and relay WSPR messages to 

Since the entire project is open source, receivers can be easily reprogrammed to receive signals other than WSPR. The nanoPi board inside runs Raspbian OS and several user programs, which are automated by custom scripts, making the receiver completely maintenance-free."

It is selling for €125 which at first glance sounds expensive but I guess one of the main features of this WSPR receiver is that it doesn't require an external PC or computer to run. All of the decoding is done inside the unit. All you need to do is connect the various cables, configure it, connect an Ethernet cable and it uploads the spots to WSPRnet.

Looking at the size of the box relative to the SMA or Ethernet connector then it's really small and just a few cms across.

Future products... They are also developing a separate transmitter module.

They have no information on this in terms of power output but 200 milliwatts seems to be the norm.

It's also interesting to see that they are developing a series of band pass filters...

I think these will be attractive to users of other WSPR products as well as all you need are the connecting SMA patch leads.... no construction, soldering or winding of torroids. 

The photo above shows the surface mount components inside the filter.

Nearly all of these low power WSPR transmitters have a square wave output and require some sort of filter to remove the higher harmonics. This is usually done with a low-pass filter rather than a bandpass filter which tends to have slightly more loss.

Where bandpass filters shine is with the receiver module as they keep all of the potentially large signals on the lower bands out of the front end of the receiver. I think these standalone filter modules may be of interest to anyone with a SDR receiver and who want to concentrate on one band.

Link... More info on the RemoteQTH website

Disclaimer: Just to clarify, no-one paid for this post or sent any product to me for review. These are new products that I think people will be interested in.

Addendum: Since putting up this post, someone hs asked about whether the receiver can hop between bands? Does it run WSJT-X? And what is the performance of the receiver?

I looked at the files section of the site and found a circuit diagram. The receiver schematic shows the input RF going straight into an IC without any preceding RF stage amplification. This might be ok on the bands on the lower bands like 40m or 80m but is it going to be sensitive enough on bands like 10m / 28 MHz?

The input has a single LC parallel circuit which suggests that it is intended for single band use. If these components are left out then an external band pass filter is required for each band.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Two new DX-peditions planned for Bouvet Island...

Back in February of 2023, we had the 3Y0J expedition to Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic which promised a lot but disappointed many.

The initial ambitious plan was to be have 12 stations active for most of the month of February 2023 with a target of 200,000 contacts. In the end, the number of contacts that were actually completed was 18,833 which is 9.4% of the target planned.

In a previous post, I outlined how each QSO might have cost in the region of $38.

After the expedition, there was a lot of talk about how unruly the pile ups were and there were a few soft interviews with members of the expedition about how it went.

What I think a lot of people and groups who donated to the 3Y0J expedition will be wondering about is  the actual planning. 

  • How was it that after raising $715,000, they seemed so ill-prepared to transfer equipment from their boat onto the island in what were always likely to be choppy seas?
  • Why did they bring four diesel generators that weighed 113 kgs (250lbs) each instead of smaller and lighter petrol (gasoline) ones?
  • How did they manage to lose a tent?
  • Did they train for the landings on some safe island?

If you were following the expedition then you'll remember that they failed to get the heavy diesel generators off the main boat and had to use just one smaller petrol generator instead which had a limited fuel supply of 50 litres.

The second video below describes some of the problems they faced.

Two videos of the 3Y0J expedition...

Two new expeditions... On the 7th of December 2023, the organisers of the 3Y0J team announced that they were planning to return to the island in 2025 using the call 3Y0K.

Just days later, a rival expedition announced that they were planning a separate expedition as 3Y0I! It looks as if there might be a bit of tension between the two groups... see below.

3Y0K... The key points of their press release were...

  • Seeking donations in the order of $150,000
  • A much reduced team of 3 operators instead of 12
  • The use of remote operation
  • Equipment reduced to 2.1 tons from 7 tons.
  • 21-days on the island
  • Use of light weight Honda generators
  • More dinghies

You can read their press release HERE


3Y0I... The Rebel DX Group release this statement just days later...


Due to Dom 3D2USU being kicked out of the 3Y0K Bouvet DXpedition / Project which was made and led by Ken LA7GIA and Dom (Ken was informed by DX foundations that if he joined forces with the Rebel DX Group there would be no support for Ken), the Rebel DX Group has decided the time is right to reactivate 3Y0I plans and stage their own DXpedition to Bouvet. You may remember that in 2019, the 3Y0I team were unsuccessful in getting to Bouvet due to inclement weather, seas and vessel damage. 

For this DXpedition, there will be no support or funding needed. They seek no assistance from foundations or clubs. All equipment is in place already in South Africa. Plan is for three operators to land on Bouvet with an additional five more ops operating CW remotely – more on this in the future.

A vessel has already been secured and will be operated by four ex-Navy seals from Military Unit Formoza. A captain and first mate will complete the team – between them they have 25 years experience heading into the cold South Atlantic waters. Many years ago, Dom 3D2USU, landed several times on Bouvet using a dinghy during a 3-day stay.  The whole crew is highly trained for this kind of landing and surviving in harsh conditions.

Reissuing the 3Y0I license is straightforward. You can get your own license if you wish. It takes two days and $0 dollars to receive one.  Some info will not be provided for many reasons – for example dates will only be announced near the time of sailing. 

As a footnote, the last 2.5 years the Rebel DX Group has delivered over 1 million QSOs from various Pacific islands. LoTW is always uploaded straight after any expedition, without delay or requests for “Express LoTW” services. QSL cards from the Pacific are usually sent out once a year when the team is back in Europe to print them, and then take back to Fiji. Note:

QSL cards from Bouvet will be run by proper QSL manager as we will relocate our team to another cold place. More on that info soon."

HF Conditions... As someone pointed out on Twitter / X, we're near the peak of the sunspot cycle and things will start to get worse in the next few years on the higher HF bands like 28 MHz as we move away. Whoever gets to Bouvet, it would be better to be operational as soon as possible.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Geminid meteor shower peaks on the 14th of Dec 2023

The Geminid meteor shower is one of the biggest of the year and meteors from this shower should appear from the 4th to the 20th of December. The peak is predicted to be at 19:30 UTC on  Thursday 14th of December 2023.

The radiant of the shower is above the horizon from about 18:00 to 10:00 local time and will be highest above the horizon around 02:00 local time. As the sky will be dark with a new moon, it should be a good visual spectacle as well in clear skies.

From a radio point of view, there should be plenty of meteor pings and bursts with an hourly rate of 150 expected.

On bands like 40 MHz, 50 MHz & 70 MHz, signals that are 500-1000kms distant should give good signals. The higher bands like 144 MHz will need longer paths.

One of the best bands for meteor scatter is 50 MHz. See if there is a beacon about 500kms from your location and have a listen on SSB or CW. It can be useful to have a waterfall display like that used for FT8 so that you can visually see weak signals.

The best time for meteor scatter is usually around 6am local time. If you were to try around 6am on the 14th & 15th of December then you should see and hear plenty of meteor bursts and pings.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

W5LUA gets first Worked All States award for the 903 MHz - 33cms band

Radio amateurs in the USA have access to an unusual band at 902 to 928 MHz which is known as the 33 cm band. Due to its unusual nature, much of the equipment for the band has to be home made or modified with transverters being a popular choice.

In November of 2023, Al W5LUA was awarded the very first Worked All States award from the ARRL. He started collecting the states shortly after the band opened in 1985 and his quest has taken 18-years.

As a band in the UHF region, most of the 'local' states would have been possible via tropospheric propagation but to work all 50 US states, signals had to be bounced off the moon. i.e. EME or moonbounce.

W5LUA's station consists of a 5-meter dish with 400 W of power obtained from two 300 W Motorola amplifiers in parallel. His feed is a dual polarity patch feed.

As recently as September of 2023, W5LUA was stuck on 32 states and still 18 short. Thanks to Peter, KA6U who went on a roving 25-state expedition, the last 18 states were worked.

W5LUA writes... "I am extremely grateful to Peter Van Horne, KA6U, for his EME [Earth-moon-Earth] efforts. I was able to work Wisconsin for my last state on the 33-centimeter band on October 21. At the end of September, I was sitting at 32 states confirmed with cards and/or the Logbook of The World (LoTW), when Van Horne went on a 25-state expedition providing my last 18 states.

W5LUA also notes that prior to that, recent expeditions by Brian, NX9O, and Jason, N1AV, also provided several states that were needed.

Background to the 33 cms band... In 1985, the FCC allocated the frequency band between 902 and 928 MHz to Part 18 industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) equipment. In that proceeding, the band was also allocated to the Amateur Radio Service on a secondary basis, meaning amateurs could use the band if they accepted interference from and did not cause interference to primary users.

The list above from the North Texas Microwave Society gives an idea of what equipment is used on the band.

1) ARRL... The First Worked All States Certificate Awarded for the 33-Centimeter Band.
2) North Texas Microwave Society... 902 MHz Presentations (PDF)

Friday, December 8, 2023

The 'Morse Phone' Oscillator Kit

I recently came across this morse code oscillator kit which some clubs or beginners might find of interest. While it is designed for JOTA (Jamboree on the Air for Scouts), it would be useful for say a radio club or Maker group to get experience of building an electronic kit with through hole components.

Steve, EI5DD in Co Galway in the west of Ireland did exactly this. Steve writes... "A few morse practice oscillator kits built over the weekend for our local scouts group following the interest during Scouts Jamboree on the Air."

A close up of the kit is shown above and it should be pretty easy to build. The 'morse key' is made out of a piece of PCB which is used as a lever / switch.

The image above shows a side view of it. The website that is selling the kit has a detailed PDF document where all the construction details and the schematic are shown.

This is the link for the kit...

Please note that I have no connection with this site or the kit. I didn't build it and it wasn't sent to me for review. I just noticed that Steve, EI5DD bought a batch of them and it helps promote the use of morse code / CW.

Promising news for the amateur radio 23cms microwave allocation - Nov 2023

With the development of GPS and other radio navigation satellite systems, the part of the radio spectrum above 1 GHz has become very attractive and this has put pressure on the 23cms / 1.3 GHz amateur radio band. For the last few years, it looked as if the decades old allocation might be lost altogether.

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) are now reporting that an agreement has been reached for a recommendation for 23cm band amateur operations to be allowed on a non-interference basis alongside the co-frequency radio navigation satellite service (RNSS). The recommendation from the the ITU‑R Radio Assembly (RA) will form a component of the WRC-23 discussions which are ongoing until December 15th. (see update below)

While the threat to the 23cms band hasn't been removed completely, it is significant that a technical sub group has reached an agreement and hopefully it will be approved at the main conference.


Update - 8th Dec 2023: 23cm band outcome approved at the 7th Plenary meeting of WRC-23

The following was posted today on the IARU web site: During the WRC-23 deliberations, strong positions were expressed by all the parties involved. The result is a well-supported compromise for a footnote in the Radio Regulations regarding amateur and amateur satellite service operation in the 1240 – 1300 MHz range. The footnote reminds administrations and amateurs of the need to protect the primary RNSS from interference and provides guidance to administrations to allow both services to continue to operate in this portion of the spectrum. The compromise was formally adopted by the Conference Plenary on December 8 and is not subject to further consideration during the final week of the WRC. The IARU team continues its work on other WRC issues including the development of agendas for future conferences.

IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH, noted “This is a very good result for the amateur services. The decision reached at WRC-23 on this agenda item makes no change to the table of allocations nor incorporates by reference M.2164 into the Radio Regulations. The addition of a footnote that provides guidance to administrations in the event of interference to the RNSS is a good regulatory outcome for amateurs and the primary users of this band.”


The image above from the IARU gives a good overview of what is going to happen to the 23cms amateur radio band.

1) Parts of the band restricted to just milliwatts... The current band is 60 MHz wide going from 1240 MHz to 1300 MHz. There will be a severe power restriction for large segments of the band that might overlap the radio navigation satellite signals.

Example...The section of 1240 to 1255.76 MHz overlaps the Russian Glonass system, Here, just 1.26-milliwatts in a 150 kHz wide signal is allowed. Note that this is effective radiated power so it includes any antenna gain. In simple terms, this prevents any amateur use of these segments of the band.

2) Protecting the DATV segment... The key target for the IARU has been to protect the main centres of activity and one of these is the Digital Amateur TV segment around 1260 MHz. The frequencies below are from the current IARU Region 1 band plan...

1243,250 - 1260,000 * (D)ATV 1258.150 - 1259.350 Repeater output

There will be power restrictions in terms of EIRP (combined power and antenna gain) and the IARU gave these examples...

1255.76 to 1256.52 MHz (760 kHz) = 250W eirp... 4W into typical beam antenna (18dBi) or 60W into 6dBi mobile ant.

1256.52 to 1258 MHz (1.48 MHz) = 125W eirp...2W into typical beam antenna (18dBi) or 30W into 6dBi mobile ant.

3) Protecting the narrowband segment... The other important part of the band from an amateur radio point of view is the segment for narrowband modes from 1296 to 1300 MHz (e.g. CW, SSB, FM, FT8). Here, the plan is for a simpler power output restriction rather than taking the antenna gain into account as well.

1296 – 1298 MHz = 50W pep into antenna & 1298 – 1300 MHz = 150W pep into antenna

There is a higher power limit for moon bounce operation as long as the antenna has more than 30dBi gain and is pointing more than 15 degrees above the horizon.

4) Amateur Radio Satellites... There is a complex set of power restrictions covering narrowband operation in the amateur satellite band from 1260 – 1262 MHz. These range from very low power at low elevation angles to higher power levels at high angles (−3 dBW for 0° to 15° / 17 dBW for 15° to 55° / 26.8 dBW for 55° to 90°).

I'm not aware of any amateur satellites using these frequencies or if any licensing authority will be keen in the future to give permission to any potential new satellites considering the contested nature of the band.

23cms / 1296 MHz... Why does it matter??? AMSAT UK sums it up nicely... "The 1240 – 1300 MHz band is important for the amateur radio service, being the lowest allocation for radio amateurs on which typical microwave propagation can be experienced. Access to these frequencies is facilitated by commercially available equipment and provides a ‘bridge’ building motivation to become involved in more specialized higher frequency microwave and millimeter wave operations providing the self-training which is at the heart of amateur radio."

In conclusion... As the IARU notes..."The final recommendation represents the culmination of more than 4 years of work by the IARU team within the ITU‑R study groups to ensure the best outcome for amateur radio in the face of intense regulatory, political and commercial pressure."

Some people may be disappointed with some of the proposed changes but there really isn't another alternative. The choice here is pretty simple... either the amateur radio service can co-exist with radio navigation satellite systems in the 23cms band on a non-interference basis or have no amateur allocation there at all.

If the plan is agreed at the conference as expected then it offers some certainty to radio amateurs who want to use the band, They can buy or make equipment safe in the knowledge that the band won't be gone in a few years time.

It also allows the radio amateur service some protection in that we can hide under the protection of these radio navigation satellites. It's highly likely that the various governments would have serious objections to any commercial interests trying to get access to the 23cms band in the future.

Further reading... You can find more information at the links below...

1) Potential Interference To Galileo From 23cm Band Operations Peter Blair, G3LTF (2005) 

2) 23cm band in the spotlight with regulators... AMSAT-UK (Feb 2021)

3) 23cm Band and RNSS Coexistence September Update... AMSAT-UK (Feb 2021) 

4) Austria restricts 23cm band operation... AMSAT-UK (March 2023)

5) ITU‑R Recommendation M.2164 on 23cm amateur service and RNSS operations now published in time for WRC-23 discussions ...IARU (Nov 23, 2023)

6) ITU-R M.2164 Summary ...IARU (Nov 23, 2023) 

7) Recommendation ITU-R M.2164-0 : Guidance on technical and operational measures for the use of the frequency band 1240-1300 MHz by the amateur and amateur-satellite service in order to protect the radionavigation-satellite service (space-to-Earth) ...ITU (Nov 23, 2023) 

8) IARU Region 1 band plan for 23cms ...IARU (March 2021)

Addendum...After I put up this post, the RSGB released this related video which was made in October 2023 (1h 42m in length)...

1. Barry Lewis, G4SJH talks about "Amateur/RNSS coexistence in the 23cm band"
2. John Worsnop, G4BAO considers "How will the possible RNSS changes affect narrow band DX operation and EME?"
3. Dave Crump, G8GKQ looks at "The future of ATV in 23cms"