Category Archives: 144MHz

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!

Using the Graves radar to check elevated antenna lobes on 2m

By now, most VHF-ers have heard of the Graves radar on 143.050MHz in JN27si, France. The radar transmits very high effective radiated power (ERP) CW towards the southern sky at various azimuths switched in sequence and, apart from its intended purpose of tracking satellites for the French Air Force, provides a very useful beacon for radio hams. More details can be found on PE1ITR’s excellent webpage, here.

The ERP from Graves is high enough that it’s easy to receive moonbounce signals from it. In the past I have had excellent results using just a small 2m antenna, with enough signal to noise margin to suggest even smaller is possible – shown below is a 25 minute waterfall of signals captured from IO91wv in 2008, using just a 4el yagi fixed at around 100 degrees azimuth:

Signals from Graves radar

Signals from Graves radar using 4el yagi, as received in IO91wv.

Graves’ moonbounce signal is reliable enough that, by tracking the Moon’s azimuth with an antenna fixed at, or near, zero elevation, it’s possible to get some idea of what that antenna’s pattern looks like at higher elevations. There are (at least) a few caveats: Firstly the earth-moon-earth path is not 100% reliable or stable, so there will be signal variations that are unrelated to antenna performance; Secondly, 143.050MHz is some way away from the design frequency of a 2m yagi, so the antenna pattern will probably be skewed slightly; and Thirdly, Graves’ antenna pattern appears to be focused between 15 and 40 degrees elevation, so measurements need to be made when it sees the Moon within that window, which might preclude being able to test one’s own antenna at all (especially low) elevations. I decided to have a go at measuring it anyway, and was quite pleased with the results…

A quick run down of how my system is configured:

    • My 2m antenna is an 11el F9FT, rotatable but with a fixed elevation of about 10 degrees. The rotator is computer-controllable, with an Easy Rotator Controller fitted to its control box.
    • The antenna can track the Moon’s azimuth, using F1EHN’s superb free EME System software.
    • Audio from my FT857D is fed to a Windows XP PC, via an isolated interface (bought from ebay, cheaper than I could have built it for).
    • The audio is analysed, in this case, using DL4YHF’s excellent free Spectrum Lab software.

Spectrum lab isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to set up but it does provide powerful audio analysis features, which, incidentally, were hardly touched during this test! For this measurement I used Spectrum Lab’s plotting feature (Main menu->View/Windows->Watch List & plot window), with “watches” set for finding the peak signal (amplitude and frequency) within a small range of audio frequencies, targeted at where the signal from Graves was expected to be. Watches were also set to measure the base audio noise amplitude, and the peak-minus-noise amplitude.

With Spectrum Lab running as described above, I set the antenna tracking the Moon and started logging results from 15:26z on 13th November 2013. At this time the Moon was at 14 degrees above the horizon at JN27si, i.e. almost within the antenna pattern at Graves. Having to wait for the Moon to enter Graves’ beam pattern meant that the Moon was already almost 5 degrees above my horizon, already above my first ground gain peak: I don’t see that as a problem because I already know that the antenna works fine at very low elevations, I’m more interested in what happens higher up!

Running the measurements through to a little beyond 18:30z, when the Moon’s elevation at Graves went above 40 degrees, gave the following result:

Graves moonbounce signal

Graves radar moonbounce signal plotted against time

The top graph shows the peak amplitude of the Graves moonbounce signal (green) and the average base noise amplitude (red) against time. The bottom graph shows the audio frequency of the Graves moonbounce signal with dial set to 143.049MHz USB, within a few tens of Hz (blue) and the difference between the two signals from the top graph (mauve). The slowly changing doppler as the Moon rises can be clearly seen on the blue trace, with a few “spikes” where the signal is too weak to get a lock.

As previously mentioned, I already know that I get a good ground-gain peak between 0 and 5 degrees, which is not shown on the above graphs. However, the graphs do show two clear strong peaks, between approximately 16:05z-16:35z and 17:03z-17:32z, with a later insignificant peak. At my location on 13th November, these equate to elevations of around 10-15 degrees and 19-23 degrees respectively. The lower window is no surprise to me, agreeing well with previous results off the Moon. What is surprising is the higher window which appears to be equally as good: In the past I’ve always assumed that I might as well stop looking when the Moon’s gone above 15 degrees, but this shows that it might be worth looking again a little higher up! I shall certainly give it a try 🙂

Problems with the Meteorscatter-Sprint contest?

The Meteorscatter-Sprint contest takes place, each year, for a period of 48 hours around the peak of the August Perseids meteor shower. The rules don’t state any specific reason for the contest but, apart from providing the usual contest thrills, one assumes one of its main aims must be to promote activity?

From my perspective, it became apparent during 2013’s Perseids shower that this contest is having a somewhat negative impact, especially (but not only) when it comes to attempting ODX (extreme distance) contacts. I’ll try, as best I can, to explain…

Firstly, there is really no need to promote activity at the very peak of the year’s best meteor shower! The August Perseids is widely known to be very reliable and has been a focus of activity, including expeditions, for decades. Any promotion of activity would be far better targeted a week, or even a few days, before or after the peak: Conditions are often excellent during these times, but activity (i.e. stations “on the air”) has never been anywhere near as good as at the peak – this can only be partly due to the current sprint contest because it has been true for many, many years.

The August Perseids provides a high ZHR (Zenith Hourly Rate) at a quite predictable peak time, that makes it ideal for attempting extreme distance QSOs. However, even at the very peak of the shower, distances significantly greater than 2000km will often take a long time to complete, perhaps upwards of an hour. Unfortunately the sprint contest implicitly encourages entrants to only attempt QSOs that will take very little time to complete: It is, after all, a “sprint” and the scoring system is based purely on the number of contacts made, so it’s natural that entrants want to make contacts at the highest possible rate – who can blame them? I’m not sure it’s really possible to add enough bias in the scoring system to make it worth people’s time attempting QSOs over extreme distances, but if the contest is to remain at the peak of the shower then it should be considered… please!

The end result is that it becomes intensely frustrating to be receiving meteor scatter signals from several stations who are more than 2400km away, but have no chance to contact them because they are only interested in “quick and easy” QSOs. Of course, as it stands, once the contest is finished they are then free to try an hour-long sked, but the irony is that the peak of the shower has then passed and a QSO is not possible…

I make no bones about the fact that I’m a DX-er and therefore have my own biases. I enjoy stretching the boundaries of what is possible at VHF and I think, in general, contests are a great way of achieving that purpose. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Meteorscatter-Sprint contest does not!

An exceptional tropo opening

There had been much anticipation of a decent tropo opening around the 23rd September with a large, stable area of high pressure forming over north west Europe. In the end it turned into something that people will remember for a long time, with some fabulous contacts made. I can’t wait to see reports from the likes of GI4SNA, OM2VL, S51ZO, and others, which I’m sure will be amazing!

Here’s my own story, with apologies for the length…

The Hepburn forecast map was looking good with a nice yellow/orange area predicting long-distance potential:

Hepburn 23/06/13

Hepburn’s tropo prediction for 06z on 23/09/13

On the morning of 22nd September things started to look promising, with a few reasonable contacts over 800km to the east and south – not huge signals, but it was something:

22/09/2013 06:30 DG0VOG          JO60QU  519      519      2 m.   1496km
22/09/2013 06:35 PA3GGI          JO21TV  539      529      2 m.    947km
22/09/2013 06:38 DL6YBF          JO31OX  59       59       2 m.   1054km
22/09/2013 06:42 F4EGA           JO10QK  54       51       2 m.    823km
22/09/2013 06:47 PA2CHR          JO32DB  59       59       2 m.    991km
22/09/2013 06:53 PA4VHF          JO32JE  57       55       2 m.   1024km
22/09/2013 07:05 ON4KHG          JO10XO  58       56       2 m.    858km
22/09/2013 07:11 ON4KBE          JO20BI  559      559      2 m.    877km
22/09/2013 07:49 DK3EE           JO41GU  54       41       2 m.   1146km
22/09/2013 08:12 PE9GG           JO33NA  59       59       2 m.   1043km
22/09/2013 08:19 PA5MS           JO21RQ  55       54       2 m.    938km
22/09/2013 08:31 DF0MU           JO32PC  529      519      2 m.   1058km
22/09/2013 08:34 PA1VW           JO22IN  549      559      2 m.    881km
22/09/2013 08:42 ON4BR           JO20SW  549      439      2 m.    958km
22/09/2013 08:47 PA2DW           JO22GD  55       55       2 m.    871km
22/09/2013 09:02 PD0HCV          JO31FW  57       57       2 m.   1003km
22/09/2013 09:17 DK1FG           JN59OP  519      319      2 m.   1384km
22/09/2013 10:42 EA1DHB/P        IN83FD  51       52       2 m.   1038km
22/09/2013 10:44 EA2TO/P         IN83FD  51       51       2 m.   1038km

Later that evening and into the morning of the 23rd September a few more signals appeared:

22/09/2013 22:32 DG0VOG          JO60QU  51       519      1496km
22/09/2013 22:46 DM7RM/P         JN48JC  51       519      1283km
23/09/2013 06:50 DL8MAI          JN57FV  519      529      1405km
23/09/2013 07:06 DF1CF           JN57FP  519      529      1417km
23/09/2013 08:05 HB3YAT          JN47JM  RO       RO       1313km
23/09/2013 09:18 DF1CF           JN57FP  57       52       1417km

Once again the signals were not too strong, but the distances were very good: This usually indicates there’s a good high-level (mid-tropospheric) duct somewhere along the path, but it is almost certainly extended at one or both ends by a local low-level inversion. There was certainly one at my end of the path, if the thick fog here was anything to go by.

After the QSO with DF1CF @09:18z things started to go downhill very rapidly as the local inversion lifted, to the point where the band seemed absolutely dead more-or-less everywhere. This was disappointing, because it showed that few, if any, people were able to directly access the mid-tropospheric duct at this time – probably because it was at too high an altitude (indications are it was then >1400m above sea level). Over time there was no doubt the high-level duct would descend, as it always does, but of course the high pressure system itself would also move. There was plenty of nail-biting at ‘3KD, hoping the duct would come directly into range at some point!

Luckily, this is where well-sited beacons show how useful they are: HB9HB (JN37qf/1226km) is located at 1395m asl and was a constant signal even when everything else had faded, confirming the duct was still present. Indeed it grew in strength, thus raising hopes…

Then, at around 12z, the first “properly ducted” signal suddenly appeared, from OE2XRM (JN67nt/1589km)! It took a few calls to attract his attention through the instant pile-up, but a nice QSO resulted. I didn’t have the audio recorder running at the time, but made this recording just a few minutes later:

Soon after, more and more signals started to appear from a similar direction, characterised by good signal strengths disturbed by very deep and rapid fading. The distances were great, varying from 800 to over 1500km:

23/09/2013 12:15 OE2XRM          JN67NT  55       559      1589km
23/09/2013 13:05 F0FYP           JN37LO  55       55       1188km
23/09/2013 13:30 F6DCD           JN38RQ  569      569      1167km
23/09/2013 13:35 DJ9EV           JN49SC  55       52       1290km
23/09/2013 13:50 DK1FG           JN59OP  58       58       1384km
23/09/2013 14:00 OK1ES           JO60RN  529      419      1510km
23/09/2013 14:09 HB9SLU          JN36MU  54       51       1236km
23/09/2013 14:42 DF9RJ           JN68GS  55       53       1508km
23/09/2013 14:48 DK3XT           JN49FE  559      559      1213km
23/09/2013 14:51 HB9BNI          JN37WB  559      559      1278km
23/09/2013 15:13 DL2GPS          JN48CD  54       41       1242km
23/09/2013 15:25 F5BLD           JN38WS  549      559      1191km
23/09/2013 15:33 DL2OM           JO30SN  599      559      1104km
23/09/2013 15:36 DL5MCG          JN58KH  53       58       1414km
23/09/2013 15:39 DL8NP           JN58SC  559      569      1468km
23/09/2013 15:44 DL0SA           JN58SC  549      539      1468km
23/09/2013 15:48 OE5RBO          JN68OB  559      559      1583km
23/09/2013 15:55 F5SE/P          JN19XH  59       59        905km
23/09/2013 16:02 F5SE/P          JN19XH  539      519       905km (70cm)
23/09/2013 16:07 F6IHC           JO10OQ  58       55        804km
23/09/2013 16:09 F5JNX           JN37PV  589      599      1194km
23/09/2013 16:11 F6ACU           JN38FC  599      599      1128km
23/09/2013 16:17 DJ3OS           JN49FL  51       57       1202km
23/09/2013 16:19 F1NPX/P         JN29DH  57       59        927km
23/09/2013 16:22 F5MFO           JN19IB  579      559       834km
23/09/2013 16:29 DF7RG           JN68HG  569      569      1534km
23/09/2013 16:30 OK2BY           JN69JJ  559      559      1501km
23/09/2013 16:34 DK1KW           JN58RE  529      559      1459km

I even had a QSO with F5SE/P (JN19xh/905km) on 432MHz – but more about my 70cm exploits later…

At 16:35z, I glimpsed a comment from Pista, HA1FV (JN87jj/1858km) in the ON4KST chat that he could hear me – but I already knew because, to my amazement, I could hear him calling! The signal was quite weak but an easy QSO resulted, most certainly via tropo from the duration and “sound” of the transmission – unfortunately I didn’t have the audio being recorded at the time, so no clip.

Some minutes later I was still getting over the shock of working Pista, and struggling to receive a French station who’d faded into the noise, when I heard “S51ZO S51ZO?” being sent on CW. I had half a mind that it was a wind-up, but went on to work Joze, S51ZO (JN86dr/1856km) very easily – I was amazed when he confirmed the QSO later in the KST chat! This time I remembered to turn the audio recorder on right at the end of the contact, so got a brief clip that indicates how good a signal it was:

Conditions were getting better all the time and I was very pleased, shortly after S51ZO, to work Frank OE3FVU (JN78ve/1754km). Signals were slightly down during our contact, although it was easy enough, but I made this recording of Frank very soon after:

More nice contacts followed, including many to the south of Germany and Austria:

23/09/2013 16:37 HA1FV           JN87JJ  519      529      1858km
23/09/2013 16:43 F5LEN           JN38BO  54       54       1081km
23/09/2013 16:45 F2GL            JN17ST  549      569       957km
23/09/2013 16:50 S51ZO           JN86DR  559      579      1856km
23/09/2013 16:53 DK2HZ           JN48RW  539      539      1291km
23/09/2013 16:55 DL2DN           JN48MX  599      599      1261km
23/09/2013 16:56 F6AFC           JN38CM  599      599      1091km
23/09/2013 17:00 OE3FVU          JN78VE  52       51       1754km
23/09/2013 17:01 DL8SCQ          JN48RV  59       59       1293km
23/09/2013 17:02 F6GYH           JN27TS  59       59       1092km
23/09/2013 17:04 DK2RY           JN59KN  59       57       1364km
23/09/2013 17:05 F5FIM           JN38IA  59       59       1149km
23/09/2013 17:06 F4ABV           JN39FD  59       56       1079km
23/09/2013 17:07 DL6SDH          JN48RW  56       56       1291km
23/09/2013 17:08 DL4NC           JN59KO  54       52       1362km
23/09/2013 17:09 F2LU            JN38UH  59       58       1201km
23/09/2013 17:46 DL8FL           JN48XS  579      579      1332km
23/09/2013 17:48 DL6YBF          JO31OX  559      559      1054km
23/09/2013 17:49 DL5FDP          JN49LP  539      539      1230km
23/09/2013 17:52 F6DZS           JN18EV  539      539       821km
23/09/2013 17:55 DL5MAE          JN58VF  59       59       1480km 5 watts!
23/09/2013 17:57 DL5MAE          JN58VF  579      559      1480km (70cm)
23/09/2013 18:12 DL6WU           JN49HT  599      559      1201km
23/09/2013 18:14 DL5GAC          JN47UT  599      599      1359km
23/09/2013 18:36 LX2LA           JN39CP  59       59       1043km
23/09/2013 18:46 OE5XBL          JN68PC  59       59       1587km
23/09/2013 18:48 OE5XBL          JN68PC  51       539      1587km (70cm)
23/09/2013 19:04 OE3DSB          JN78FA  52       55       1670km
23/09/2013 19:07 LX1DB           JN39CO  59       59       1044km
23/09/2013 19:13 DJ0QZ           JN49LM  59       59       1234km

Did you notice the two 70cms contacts in the log, with DL5MAE (JN58vf/1480km) and OE5XBL (JN68pc/1587km), and earlier with F5SE/P? The FT857d I use can run about 20 watts on 432MHz but I don’t have an antenna for 70cm. However, I know from past experience that 2m Tonna antennas, such as my 11el, are not too bad a match on 70cm – So these QSOs were made with the barefoot FT857d into the 11el 2m antenna! It’s a slightly complicated process to switch bands, because I have to disable the 2m masthead preamp and apply an offset to the antenna azimuth because the pattern is skewed on 70cm, but it worked 😀 Here’s the audio from the ‘MAE and ‘XBL QSOs with us QSYing from 2m up to 70cm:

At around 19:15z I was tuning around the band and came across a CW signal that sounded a bit “DX-ey”. I was astonished to hear, very clearly, “OM2VL OM2VL OM2VL”, but was so excited I a) immediately forget his call, and b) initially forgot to switch the rig from SSB to CW. It was a brilliant QSO with Laci, OM2VL (JN87wv/1909km), but the chaos is adequately heard in the following clip 😀 About ten minutes later I could hear Laci very clearly on SSB, and on telling him that in the KST chat he asked me to call again for a very nice SSB QSO:

This was the peak of the opening for me and conditions very slowly started to drop off, although a number of great contacts followed for the rest of the evening through to the following morning, including a fantastic CW QSO with Zvonko, 9A1CAL (JN86dm/1867km).

I heard a little later from Moma, YU1EV (KN04cn/2246km), that he had heard me 539 during my QSO with 9A1CAL – it’s such a shame I didn’t hear him call!

The rest of the log is here:

23/09/2013 19:17 OM2VL           JN87WV  559      599      1909km
23/09/2013 19:20 OE5HSN          JN68PC  55       55       1587km
23/09/2013 19:28 OM2VL           JN87WV  55       59       1909km
23/09/2013 19:48 9A1CAL          JN86DM  519      519      1867km
23/09/2013 19:49 DL8MFL          JN58OA  599      599      1450km
23/09/2013 19:52 DH1VY           JN39KF  599      599      1104km
23/09/2013 20:01 DF6MU           JN58WF  599      599      1485km
23/09/2013 20:06 DD7PC           JN49AX  569      529      1156km
23/09/2013 20:07 DJ5NE           JN59LW  559      559      1357km
23/09/2013 20:09 DL4NAC          JN59SV  599      599      1398km
23/09/2013 20:11 DL2GWZ          JN49HQ  559      559      1206km
23/09/2013 20:15 DK3IK           JN39JF  549      559      1098km
23/09/2013 20:17 DM5TI           JN68FF  579      559      1525km
23/09/2013 20:20 F4JVG           JN16NL  529               1021km
23/09/2013 20:22 OK7GU           JN69QT  529      529      1526km
23/09/2013 20:24 OK1PGS          JN69JW  529      559      1482km
23/09/2013 20:28 DL1NBM          JN49MV  599      559      1227km
23/09/2013 20:56 DL1MAJ          JN68AH  599      599      1493km
23/09/2013 22:00 DK3EE           JO41GU  55       529      1146km
23/09/2013 22:47 HB9EOU          JN37JC  52       51       1205km
23/09/2013 23:09 OE9MON          JN47VM  57       57       1379km
24/09/2013 07:57 OK1TEH          JO70FD  RO       RO       1590km
24/09/2013 08:52 DL6NAA          JO50VF  55       55       1405km
24/09/2013 11:18 OE2JOM/2        JN67NT  58       51       1589km
24/09/2013 11:24 OE5XBL          JN68PC  55       55       1587km
24/09/2013 11:44 ON4PS/P         JO20KQ  559      559       918km
24/09/2013 11:46 DJ5BV           JO30KI  559      569      1064km
24/09/2013 12:00 DK2EA           JO50UF  419      539      1399km
24/09/2013 12:21 DL2AMD          JO50VV  559      559      1387km

Finally, my > 800km QSO map for the period 22->24/09/13:

Tropo 22-24/09/13

Tropo QSOs made from 22-24/09/13 by EI3KD > 800km

So that’s it, after 40-odd years of being a “2m addict”, the band is still capable of amazing and exciting things. Not many hobbies can do that, eh? 😀

Tropo goes out with a bang!

The southerly tropo went out in style this evening, with an exceptional opening down the entire length of mainland Portugal – certainly a rare event! There were also strong signals from the Canary Islands (EA8) and northern mainland Spain.

The propagation appeared to be caused by a combination of the Azores high probably producing a mid-tropospheric duct, assisted by a north-south aligned weather front approaching from the west at the northern end of the path. It was characterised by slow fading but, generally, signals improved as the evening progressed. The geometry of the path at the northern end meant there was no propagation from my QTH to CT3, although Tim, G4LOH, did work a very surprised CT3KJ, first on FM S22 and then on SSB. ‘3KJ was only using 10 watts and a 4 element yagi!

This is how the log looks from EI3KD:

22/08/2013 16:51 EB1LA IN63VN 943km
22/08/2013 17:22 EA8CCG IL18TM 2690km
22/08/2013 18:28 CT1BXT IM59PF 1413km
22/08/2013 18:28 CT1FJC IM57OC 1650km
22/08/2013 18:34 EA1NL/P IN52NL 1053km
22/08/2013 18:36 CT1ANO IN51RE 1195km
22/08/2013 18:59 CT1DIZ IM58KP 1479km
22/08/2013 19:16 EA1GA IN52QR 1024km
22/08/2013 19:17 CT1HBC IN51PE 1196km
22/08/2013 19:35 EA8BTQ IL18QJ 2709km
22/08/2013 20:30 CT1FFU IM59KK 1391km
22/08/2013 20:45 CT2HKN IN51OM 1159km
22/08/2013 20:55 EA8AQV IL28ED 2716km

I also often heard the regular EA8s (e.g. EA8TJ, EA8TX) and other EA1s with quite impressive signals at times. One “gotaway” was Peter, EA8BFK, who would have been a new locator for me in IL38: He could hear my cw throughout the evening but I was unable to hear his (160W) SSB… next time Peter!

Here’s a few audio clips, hopefully indicating how amazing 144.300MHz sounded at times! Note that any CW heard is usually Tony, CT1FFU:

…and to give an indication of just how strong signals were at times, here’s a clip of Tony, CT1FFU chatting with Pinto, CT1ANO (with the pip tone) on 144.300MHz SSB, with me breaking in to comment:

Finally, a zoomed-in map of my QSOs with mainland Portugal and northwest Spain, showing the distribution:

2m Tropo QSOs 22/08/13

Map of 2m tropo QSOs made by EI3KD to Portugal (CT) on 22/08/13


Tropo continues

The tropo that started on the 19th August continued through yesterday (20th) to the south, gradually moving to the south east by this morning. Tony, CT1FFU (IM59kk/1391km), was again a good signal on the morning of the 20th, indicating the band had probably been open to him for more than 12 hours!

A nice catch for me was my first reception of the Canary Island beacon, ED8ZAA (IL18UM/2688km, as sent but note this beacon is listed as being in IL18SJ?), which has been very elusive here for some reason. It had very slow fading, going from noise level to 599 – during this recording I’d guess it was probably around 559:

The Madeira Island beacon, CS3BTM (IM12or/2245km) was much more consistent, remaining at 599 for long periods, with the occasional fade. This is on the same heading as D4 so would normally generate some excitement, but it was apparent the tropo wasn’t very stable to the south of Madeira and the Canary Islands – certainly nothing further away was heard…

There were a few humans around too, but sadly I didn’t hear CT3BD despite seeing him spotted on the DX cluster from EA8 (I also tried accessing the CT3 repeater on 145.700/88.5, but no success). Anyway, here’s a few recordings for the archive…

This morning (21st August), the Atlantic tropo to CT3/EA8 appears to have faded but propagation across Biscay has been good, with excellent signals from all along the Spanish and French coasts, inland as far as F5ICN (JN03bf/1151km). Possibly more to come over the next few days…

My first CT on 2m tropo

Both the Hepburn and F5LEN tropo prediction tools were showing some promise to the south this afternoon and, sure enough, the ED1ZAG beacon (IN53re/973km) was steadily improving. There were also traces every now and then from CS3BTM (IM12or/2246km), but nothing very substantial. Tim, G4LOH, had his usual private duct down to EA8 – so there was some hope of getting in to something down that way.

Later in the evening I could see that ED1ZAG was getting loud (e.g. 599), and there were still traces of the Madeira beacon, so I put a few speculative calls out on 144.300MHz, on CW. Luckily, a few of the tropo regulars (Agustin EA1YV, and Pedro EA8AVI) were kind enough to spot on the cluster that they could hear me, so I had some motivation to continue…

At around 20:20z I heard a CW signal replying to me, and was amazed to hear it was CT1FFU in IM59kk (1391km), a rare catch indeed. A very nice QSO resulted, and I was very happy to get my first tropo station from Portugal in the log. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to have the audio recorder running, but Tony was kind enough to come back for a second QSO so I could make a nice recording:

Following the QSO with Tony, I also heard another station calling on SSB who was just too weak to understand. I later found out that was CT2HKN in IN51 – hopefully conditions will improve to allow a contact. The next 24 hours look promising, so watch this space…

Perseids 2013 report

I’m happy with my Perseids results this year, with sixteen new locators (easy to come by with my low total) and three new DXCC (OH0/DM2ECM, YL2AO, HV0A), but it didn’t seem like a great shower – certainly not one of the all-time greats. There was also a somewhat negative impact at this QTH from the Meteorscatter-Sprint Contest but more of that in another blog, coming soon…

According to the International Meteor Organisation, the Perseids peaked this year at around 17:00z on August 12th, two or three hours earlier than originally expected. Radio observations here would tend to indicate some sort of peak at that time but it seemed weaker than the diurnal effect, when local 6am is generally best due to the fact that the Earth is revolving into the path of oncoming meteors at that time (the Earth’s rotational speed is added to the direction of travel around the Sun at dawn, and subtracted at dusk), so the relative speed is highest. In fact, the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory’s real-time meteor radar (note: link is to current data, not from Perseids peak) showed a much higher radio rate at around 9z on each day from 11th to 13th August, than at 17z on the 12th.

The best way to describe the shower this year was “clumpy”, or “like trying to start an old car on a damp morning”, i.e. it never really got going. Every now and then there would be a series of good reflections, maybe of several seconds each, but often there would follow a period of silence for a considerable time, maybe tens of minutes. It would have been easy to describe these silent periods as “worse than random”, if that actually meant anything! If one was lucky enough to get the timing right a QSO could be completed quickly, otherwise patience was required. Unfortunately, the reflections never became sustained enough for a significant amount of SSB activity, which used to be one of the trademarks of the Perseids, but I did manage a couple of SSB QSOs for “old time’s sake”…

Looking at the log, a quick summary of QSOs measured by distance shows three over 2100km (ES3RF/KO29if/2194km, IC8TEM/JN70cn/2123km, SK2AT/KP03bu/2105km), six over 2000km and eleven over 1900km – not bad!

A blog from me wouldn’t be complete without at least a couple of audio clips 😀 Here are a few nice bursts from OH0/DM2ECM (JP90wg/1951km) sending me R26, including one that lasted an entire 30s period:

(.wav files for direct decode in WSJT: DM2ECM_130812_172200.wavDM2ECM_130812_173000.wavDM2ECM_130812_173100.wav – right click and “save as”)

… and this is a nice burst from UA2FT (KO04lt/1946km) who only runs 50 Watts, sending me 26:

(.wav file for direct decode in WSJT: UA2FT_130812_181400.wav – right click and “save as”)

Finally, below is a map of contacts made from this QTH around the 12th August, plus or minus a day or two:

Perseids 2013 QSOs

Contacts made by EI3KD around the peak of the 2013 Perseids

Possibly the last 144MHz Es of 2013?

It was a nice surprise, in amongst the Perseids meteor scatter activity, to get a good Sporadic E opening on 2m today. It’s quite late in the season but it’s happened before around the Perseids shower, perhaps adding to the evidence for at least a partial link between meteoric input and Es?

The opening started here at approximately 18:21z to EA3s in JN00 and JN01, slowly moving towards EA5s in IM98 and IM99. The last signal heard here was at 19:10z, so 2m was open for about fifty minutes. The same Es patch also provided a perpendicular path from (e.g.) ON/PA/DL to CT and then on to EA8 via a tropo extension – some very nice distances were worked!

My log was as follows:

13/08/2013 18:21 EA3DBJ JN00IR 1419km
13/08/2013 18:33 EA3HJT JN01NI 1373km
13/08/2013 18:37 EA3GP JN01SF 1401km
13/08/2013 18:39 EA3AXV JN01TJ 1389km
13/08/2013 18:42 EA3EVL JN00HR 1416km
13/08/2013 18:57 EA5GPC IM98WN 1613km
13/08/2013 19:00 EA5EF IM99SM 1503km

As usual, here’s a selection of signals heard during the opening:

…and the map of QSOs made:

2m Es QSOs from EI3KD 13/08/13

2m Es QSOs from EI3KD 13/08/13