50MHz F2 propagation and QRPP EME!

Lance, W7GJ, is well-known for his 50MHz EME exploits, both from his home location and abroad from many exotic locations expedition-style. Details of his activities along with a lot of useful information regarding 6m EME can be found on his website. When terrestrial propagation is poor, I sometimes set the 6m 6el antenna towards the setting Moon to “see” what is happening: On the 30th December 2014 I noticed that Lance was a very good and consistent signal via EME, at -19dB in JT65A. I decided, rather tongue-in-cheek, that I’d call him with the barefoot FT857D (i.e. certainly no more than 100W in the shack, and somewhat less into the antenna 150m away) – To my amazement, and thanks in no small part to Lance’s tenacity, we managed to complete a QSO! It took quite a while and required all of Lance’s skill to dig my signal out of the noise, but it just goes to show what’s possible as long as we try. I really recommend everyone to at least take a look for Lance’s EME signal and perhaps give it a go – not least because his QSL card is rather nice 😉

F2 propagation on 50MHz reached Irish latitudes on 2nd February, which can’t be a bad sign as we approach the Spring equinox. The opening could have been easily missed, were it not for the Senegal beacon 6V7SIX (50.013MHz): This was the only signal heard for a while (at a good 599), but widespread reporting on the packet cluster probably encouraged Francis, 6W7SK (aka F6BLP), to come on to the band. Francis was a good signal here, resulting in a nice contact using my barefoot FT857D to the 6el LFA2.

I made this recording shortly after our QSO, of Francis calling CQ on CW…


I thought I’d better post an update, having not posted anything for a while; the reason being that not a lot has been happening!

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower peaked on the 6th of May, producing some fine, long meteor bursts: The best I heard was one from DF1JC (JO31) on 2m that apparently lasted for over 130s at S9, and there were a number more from various people lasting 20/30s. The one downside of this shower was quite a low meteor rate, so we had to be patient especially over the longer distances. We’re actually at the bottom of a twelve-year cycle for this shower, so the rates should only get better over the next six years. I didn’t work anything sensational, but was very happy to complete with the Camb-Hams DxPedition, GS3PYE/P (IO68ul) for a new square.

The much-anticipated Sporadic E (Es) propagation has started in Europe, giving a few lucky people 6m links into TEP and F2 propagation further south. The only thing of interest heard here recently was the ZD8VHF (II22TB) beacon on 50.0325MHz at around 21z on 5th May, via an Es link into evening TEP, weak but audible:

East and Northern Europe have had the first Es opening of the year on 2m, on the 13th of May – one of the favourite dates each and every year!

On 2m EME I’ve worked a few new initials (now up to 114), including I3EVK (JN66) and IK7EZN (JN90) both in new squares for me. However, a highlight was a contact with the Team Athletico expedition to Senegal, 6W/PE1L (IK14jp):

6WPE1L qso EI3KD, 2m EME, JT65B

6W/PE1L qso EI3KD, 2m EME, JT65B

A lot of concentration and patience is required for this sort of EME contact, given I was trying to work a modest, albeit highly optimised, two-yagi station with my single short 11 element yagi: I missed a few opportunities at the start of the expedition because, for a few days, they had a local obstruction causing a minimum 7 degree horizon, which meant the moon was already above my ground-gain peaks by the time it “rose” for them. However, when I began to get common windows I concentrated on them at every opportunity. I heard/decoded the expedition quite a few times but was, unsurprisingly, unable to break their pileup during the very short times when my ground-gain was enough to see them – a maximum of two periods each about twenty minutes long after moonrise, with no possibility at moonset due to local noise. In the end the time spent paid off and after many failed calls and one or two near misses we finally made a fine contact. The team can’t be thanked enough for their unsurpassed dxpedition and operating skills – thanks once again guys!

Hopefully my next update will be reporting a massive 2m Es opening, or some extraordinary tropo – we live in hope!

A few new ones…

Today (04/04/14) brought some nice surprises…

On 2m I worked a couple of new ones on random EME at moonrise: YL2AJ (KO16) for a new initial, and ER5GB (KN45) for a new DXCC which I was very happy about!

On 6m we had some interesting F2 propagation into Africa with, once again, the 6V7SIX beacon paving the way. For a change, today there was another signal in the form of Fernando, TZ6BB (IK62). I was hearing Fernando hovering above the noise for some time, working into central and southern Europe before propagation finally shifted more in our direction. I finally worked him on CW with excellent 599+ signals (at 15:48z). A little later Fernando moved up to SSB, and at 16:!3z we had another nice contact.

By the way, TZ6BB uses a G5RV antenna on 6m! I was only using the FT857D barefoot (100 Watts), so it just goes to show how good the band can be when one is in the propagation zone – and it can be equally as frustrating when not… The 6V7 beacon was in for several hours until quite late, but nothing else was heard here.

Unusual 50MHz TEP conditions today

The lunchtime TEP opening on 50MHz was a bit strange today, with South African stations reporting that Bulgarian beacons were the first signals heard. However, it was the usual story here, with almost complete white noise on the band. Having said that, I did hear Braam, ZS6AYE (KG54) a few times on 50.110MHz for about 10 or 20 seconds each time, via what I presume was meteor-scatter assisted TEP.

At around 14:13z I heard some very weak CW on 50.105MHz, which turned out to be Pierre, ZS6A. That was exciting, because Pierre is currently on expedition at Leokwe camp, in KG47. The opening to Pierre lasted about 9 minutes but, unfortunately, the signals never got strong enough for me to break his pile-up, even though he peaked at about 549. I was still pleased to hear him, and the clip below is almost the whole opening as seen from here – you can hear how far removed we are here from the wide-open paths in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean!

More 50MHz propagation

Six metres has been trying hard to open, but on most days the propagation stops in the Mediterranean and at these latitudes headphones are just full of white noise. However, I managed a couple more DX QSOs on 19th March around 13:50z with ZS6EZ (KG44) on cw, and ZS6NK (KG46) on ssb, with ZS6JON/B also making an appearance.

Thursday, 20th March, was quite an interesting day, albeit frustrating! The 6V7SIX (IK14) beacon was widely heard across Europe during mid/late afternoon, and put in a good signal here:

There were also a lot of backscatter signals from a similar direction to the 6V7 beacon. For example, I heard IW0FFK, EA4TZ, EA6BB, F4EZJ, S59A and many others, all on a heading of around 200 degrees. I only had the barefoot rig available at the time and, as is usual for backscatter, its 100 Watts wasn’t enough to make any QSOs. However, the widespread scatter seemed to bode well for some South American propagation but, at that time at least, nothing materialised.

Meanwhile, the more southerly stations are having a field-day… I’m guessing that all of us in northern Europe are eagerly awaiting some early Es, to get us into that lucrative F2/TEP region before it’s too late 😀

50MHz Transequatorial propagation (TEP)

March 4th showed a lot of promise for 6m, with the Total Electron Content (TEC) map (from NASA JPL) showing a very favourable “bubble”. Keith G4FUF reported that indicators were already strong with him by mid-morning, e.g. on 41,424MHz (probably from Iran, or perhaps Cyprus, and heard here at S9+) and the Iranian TV carrier on 48.251MHz. Indeed, sidebands from the Iranian TV carrier were rapidly approaching 50MHz.

The usual Eastern Mediterranean path opened to South Africa fairly early and, at approximately 11:55z, I heard ZS6A (KG43EU/9383km) on 50.110MHz CW for no more than a couple of minutes before he disappeared again, working SV, etc.

The band started to open here again at 12:33z, with a CW signal heard from ZS6RJ (KG44DD/9350km) – quite loud, but unfortunately off frequency and gone by the time I’d tuned. At the same time I heard a weak SSB signal from ZS6MAW (KG44CH/9329km) but was unable to attract his attention.

My first QSO was at 12:38z with ZS6AYE (KG54ML/9420km) who peaked nicely just as I called him, followed by ZS6A at 12:50z, ZS6NK (KG46RC/9192km) at 12:54z and ZS6WN (KG46SC/9195km) on CW at 13:03z. The last signal heard here was from ZS6NK at around 13:15z, after he had peaked 59 for five minutes or so.

Some audio clips from my QSOs are here:

All QSOs were made with the FT857D barefoot (100W, no preamp) into a 6el LFA2 at about 16m agl. At no point did I hear anything from the 9J2 expedition, nor did I hear any beacons.

As I write this conditions have retreated back to more southerly latitudes. Hopefully we’ll get another peak in 27 days (or, if we’re lucky, before) – or maybe some early Sporadic-E propagation to give us the first hop into the Mediterranean area!


Who’d have thought, 11 (or even 22) years ago, that aurora would be so rare this time around? There have been hardly any openings this far south, but we’ve had a couple in recent times.

On February 23rd, I worked Clive, GM4VVX in IO78ta at 17:38z. For some reason Clive was hearing me a lot better than I could hear him – I do have a lot of band noise the nearer north I beam, but it still seemed non-reciprocal?

On February 27th we had a slightly better opening. I worked a couple of Gs and GMs, but best dx was to SM4IVE (JO79sd/1682km) and SM7GVF (JO77ga/1565km) – all QSOs at a heading of 035 degrees.

The signals from SM7GVF were quite strong at times:

SM4IVE was weaker but still peaking around 54a. I haven’t found him on my recording yet (it may have been off at the time) – if I do I’ll add it to the playlist.

A small milestone…

Conditions have been poor and the weather has been terrible, but I reached a small milestone: I completed a moonbounce QSO with my 100th unique station (initial), and have since gone on to work a couple more. I’m happy with that, given my ridiculously small antenna and the fact that I’m limited to moon-rise only. The low height of the antenna above ground (approximately 6 or 7m) results in only two usable ground-gain peaks (around 2.5 and 12 degrees elevation), so my windows of opportunity for EME are indeed very limited!

I’m sure there are people with similar systems to mine that have never considered EME, perhaps thinking their antenna is too small. Please do give it a go! As an incentive, here’s a few statistics from my 102 unique EME stations:

  • Number of EME DXCC: 34 (15 are unique to EME)
  • Number of EME Squares: 88
  • Number of EME Fields: 22
  • EME best dx: ZL3TY, RE57OM, 18956km

I’ve also heard quite a lot more stations that I’ve not yet worked, including a better ODX, so there could be more to come…

I arbitrarily chose the 100th initial as a target to reach before making any changes to the system. Now that’s done I can think about what to do – current plans are to add 70cms, and perhaps add elevation and/or a second 2m antenna.

A good start to 2014 (apart from the weather)

Firstly, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy new year – all the best for great 2014.

The weather over the last few weeks has been dreadful, so thoughts are with anyone adversely affected. As I type, we have yet another storm (“Christine”) passing through with 125km/h winds just offshore to the south of us, thunder and lightning, local flooding and damage… We could do with a break now, please!

On the radio side, things have started off a little better. I’ve worked a couple of nice EME initials, i.e. ZS9MADIBA, commemorating the life and recent passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and RA22AL, one of the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics special event stations.

The Quadrantids meteor shower was predicted to peak at around 19:30z on January 3rd and is one of my favourites, with a reliably strong peak, albeit usually fairly short-lived. I concentrated on long-distance skeds (e.g. > 2000km), especially with stations that I’ve tried and failed with before (special thanks to Dule, YU7TRI, and Zdravko, E77AR, for many previous attempts), and chased a few new squares that were closer in.

I was delighted with the results this year, completing with the following (bold = >2000km, red = new locator):

02/01/2014 09:56 S58M JN76JC 1794km
02/01/2014 12:43 IK2DDR JN55GN 1544km
03/01/2014 09:47 I3MEK JN55SJ 1619km
03/01/2014 13:21 SM7THS JO76WU 1647km
03/01/2014 15:03 LY2BUU KO15XH 2141km
03/01/2014 15:27 LY2R KO15VS 2128km
03/01/2014 16:39 OH1MN KP10FO 2104km
03/01/2014 17:37 OH2NHP KP10RN 2157km
03/01/2014 18:25 OH4LA KP20LG 2232km
03/01/2014 21:30 DL8II JN49GP 1205km
03/01/2014 21:39 DH0LS JO51UA 1383km
03/01/2014 21:41 DL2RMC JN59IF 1369km
03/01/2014 21:53 S57VW JN76HD 1780km
03/01/2014 21:54 OK1TEH JO70FD 1596km
03/01/2014 21:57 DL3YEE JO50LX 1333km
03/01/2014 22:23 IW5ECS JN53GQ 1670km
03/01/2014 22:58 YU7TRI KN04KV 2272km
03/01/2014 23:35 E77AR JN94AS 2088km
04/01/2014 09:48 DG0JMB JO60LV 1472km
Quadrantids 2014 QSO map

Quadrantids 2014 QSO map from EI3KD, IO51vw

There were several exceptional contacts, including Dule, YU7TRI (KN04kv/2272km), who’s bursts can be heard in the links below:

Note 1: The second clip (with “RRRR”) was not automatically decoded by WSJT, probably due to significant doppler on the signal. It required a lot of manual mouse-clicking around the burst!

Note 2: There are a number of very short breaks in the audio, which were caused by a poor internet connection to the remote rig.

Reflections from Pasi, OH4LA (KP20LG/2232km) were also good, with eight bursts similar to this one:

Top burst prize goes to Timo, OH2NHP (KP10RN/2157km) for a great burst peaking S9, containing finals – a nice way to complete a QSO!

Links to the .wav files that can be opened directly in WSJT are here: YU7TRI_140103_223700.wavYU7TRI_140103_225200.wavOH4LA_140103_180300.wavOH2NHP_140103_1737001.wav

December tropo

I was chatting to Nick, G4KUX, on 2m at the end of last week and we were discussing the up-coming propagation forecast charts for early December, which looked quite promising:

Hepburn (c) tropo forecast for 02/12/13 06z

Hepburn (c) tropo forecast for 02/12/13 06z

Hepburn (c) tropo forecast for 03/12/13 06z

Hepburn (c) tropo forecast for 03/12/13 06z

Nick reminded me that we’ve had a few great openings during December in the past so this one was worth watching, even though it didn’t look like being one of the all-time greats. As it turned out, the forecasts from Hepburn and F5LEN were very accurate both in terms of coverage and intensity…

I noted a few beacons starting to come in from late on December 1st, gradually improving as time went by. I’ve taken a few of my cluster spots to show how things developed here:

144418.0 ON0VHF/B     IO51vw<TR>JO20hp 519 rising 2140 01 Dec
144415.0 PI7CIS/B     IO51vw<TR>JO22dc 539        0640 02 Dec
144418.0 ON0VHF/B     IO51vw<TR>JO20hp 529        0641 02 Dec
144490.0 DB0FAI/B     IO51vw<TR>JN58ic 529!       0653 02 Dec
144418.0 ON0VHF/B     IO51vw<TR>JO20hp nw 599     0737 02 Dec
144449.0 HB9HB/B      IO51vw<TR>JN37qf 419        0750 02 Dec
144449.0 HB9HB/B      IO51vw<TR>JN37qf 599        0913 02 Dec
144415.0 PI7CIS/B     IO51vw<TR>JO22dc 599        1115 02 Dec
144490.0 DB0FAI/B     IO51vw<TR>JN58ic nw 559     1133 02 Dec
144428.0 DB0JT/B      IO51vw<TR>JN67jt 519!       1146 02 Dec
144403.0 ED1ZAG/B     IO51vw<TR>IN53re 599        1746 02 Dec
144428.0 DB0JT/B      IO51vw<TR>JN67jt still 529  1912 02 Dec
144490.0 DB0FAI/B     IO51vw<TR>JN58ic still 549  1912 02 Dec

It’s very rare for me to hear the DB0JT beacon (JN67jt/1571km, 144.428MHz), but this time I got a nice recording to add to my collection:

Activity was generally low, but gradually more people came on as conditions improved and/or they came home from work. There were very few signals at a true “S9” level and even those were subject to a large amount of very rapid and deep fading: Many signals were close to the noise level, requiring CW or JT65 to complete a successful QSO.

Here, the opening lasted throughout the 2nd of December, through to early afternoon on the 3rd, resulting in fifty contacts over 1000km. These are shown on the map below:

2m Tropo QSOs 2nd/3rd Dec 2013

2m Tropo QSOs 2nd/3rd Dec 2013

The best distance was to Franz, OE3FVU (JN78ve/1754km), which was predominantly a tropo QSO but with unavoidable assistance from abundant meteor scatter. All contacts over 1300km are listed below, and show that signals were mostly quite weak.

02/12/2013 17:13 OE3FVU          JN78VE  RO       RO       JT65 1754km
02/12/2013 23:15 SQ1FYB          JO73MI  RO       RO       JT65 1569km
02/12/2013 13:21 OE2UKL          JN68LA  529      559      CW   1568km
03/12/2013 12:09 SP1JNY          JO73GL  RO       RO       JT65 1535km
02/12/2013 19:53 DL8NP           JN58SC  RO       RO       JT65 1468km
02/12/2013 13:42 DL3WW           JO60FL  529      539      CW   1443km
02/12/2013 14:58 DL3MBJ          JN57IN  55       55       SSB  1438km
02/12/2013 22:18 SM7FMX          JO65KN  55       54       SSB  1437km
02/12/2013 13:52 OK1FD           JO60CF  539      519      CW   1433km
02/12/2013 19:42 DL7APV          JO62JR  R-12     R-16     JT65 1424km
02/12/2013 09:47 DF1NP           JN58OV  549      559      CW   1412km
02/12/2013 12:19 DL6NAA          JO50VF  569      559      CW   1405km
02/12/2013 22:10 OZ6OL           JO65DJ  559      569      CW   1398km
02/12/2013 14:47 DF0HF           JO50SF  599      599      CW   1388km
02/12/2013 22:05 DK5SO           JN58AV  RO       RO       JT65 1332km
02/12/2013 15:39 DL7QY           JN59BD  529      559      CW   1328km
02/12/2013 08:00 DL3YEE          JO50LX  419      419      CW   1328km

So that’s it, as I’m writing this conditions are back down to normal and nothing much is happening. However, we have the Geminids meteor shower to look forward to, predicted to peak on December 14th at around 05:45z. Unfortunately I won’t be QRV for that one, but good luck to everyone that manages to get on!