On the 17th December, shortly after 09z, there were two solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in rapid succession, both of which directed at least some of their ejecta towards the Earth. This was fair warning of the possibility of aurora due some time on the 19th, depending on exactly how fast the material was traveling. The strength of any aurora would also depend on the alignment of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field; for maximum effect we would need a strong southerly component.
As anticipated, the CMEs passed the ACE spacecraft at 13:05z on the 19th, hitting the Earth approximately one hour later. The good news, from our point of view, was that the IMF had a significant southerly component for much of the time, resulting in excellent coupling of the CMEs into the Earth’s magnetic field causing a nice strong aurora!
With Christmas and family obligations here, I was not able to spend much time on the radio until early evening, at which point I spent most of my time tuning around on 2m looking for interesting or unusual contacts. The best I heard here was LY2WR in KN24fo at 18:50z, which is a good distance (2179km) for 144MHz aurora, but signals were quite weak and I couldn’t break his pileup.
After taking a break I decided to come back at around 21z to check 6m for any possibility of transatlantic propagation, because I’ve heard auroral signals from North America in the past at around that time. This proved to be impossible, because at that time there was a very strong Auroral-Es opening towards the whole of Scandinavia (one of the best I’ve heard) with a lot of QRM that would have obliterated any weak signals, even off the side of my antenna.
Finally, just before QRT at around 00:30z, I decided to take one last look on 6m for any signals from the north-west. At that point I tuned across a weak auroral signal on 50.048MHz peaking on a heading of 320 degrees. I couldn’t immediately identify it, but it sounded promising because it had an element of T9 indicating Auroral-Es, which really only occurs on a forward path. After a few minutes the signal peaked enough to be easily identifiable as VY0SNO in FO53rr, a distance of 3653km and a very nice first-time reception for me. A check back up the band proved fruitless, so I looked for more beacons and found a good “dit dit dit” signal on 50.0816MHz, also sounding like Auroral-Es, which turned out to be VE4ARM in EN09at at an amazing distance of 6011km! That beacon certainly wasn’t audible when I first heard the VY0 beacon, and both beacons were gone again probably no more than fifteen minutes later.
Luckily I remembered to make a recording of VE4ARM before it faded:
A big “thank you” to the beacon keepers! It’s a shame I could not hear or contact any humans from North America during this opening, but there’s always next time…