Contest + Meteors + SDR = Fun!

The first weekend of May each year hosts a Europe-wide VHF/UHF contest. It’s one I always look forward to: there’s a decent chance of tropo on some of my favourite bands (unfortunately not this year); a slim chance of Es (definitely not this year!); and, most reliably, it’s around the peak of the Eta Aquariids meteor shower.

Eta Aquariids meteors are quite unusual because they are relatively swift (at 66.9km/s) compared with many other shower meteors. When seen visually, they leave long and persistent trains in the night sky. In a similar fashion, from a radio perspective they often result in long and intensely strong “bursts”. Combined with a decent peak hourly rate of 40 and a lot of QRO, well-sited stations all over Europe, this can make for some interesting listening! This year did not disappoint with many bursts heard on 144MHz, some lasting tens of seconds.

A step up from simply tuning around searching for meteor-scatter bursts is to use a Software Defined Radio (SDR), with appropriate software, to record a portion of spectrum to hard disk for a period of time. This data can then be viewed after the event, tuning across the recorded spectrum as if it was in real-time. As an example, I used Simon Brown’s excellent SDR-Radio suite (Version 2.3 in my case) to do just that at various points through the weekend, capturing several very good meteor bursts.

Included below is a video of me using SDR-Radio’s data file analyser to play back signals captured during one good burst on 144 MHz, which I’ve annotated with information about each station received, wherever possible.  Enjoy!

This data was captured in IO51vw using an 11el F9FT antenna at 6m a.g.l., azimuth 095 degrees, a mast-head preamp into an active 0dB loss splitter, feeding an RTL SDR dongle on one port. The recorded spectrum was originally 1MHz wide, centred at 144.280MHz, but I’ve used the data file analyser to zoom in such that the spectrum now covers from approximately 144.150 MHz to 144.410 MHz.


8 thoughts on “Contest + Meteors + SDR = Fun!

  1. Merlin

    Hi, I’ve been testing a home brew 7-el 70cm yagi this evening with SDR# and MSHV – picked up a CQ call from you @ -24db around 2250z. I’m in IO91WN


    Merlin M6LNF

    1. Mark Turner Post author

      Hi Merlin!

      It’s great that you’re experimenting but, unfortunately, I don’t think that what you received was from me. Can you give me a few more details, i.e. what mode you had MSHV set to, what frequency, etc? It’s possible that what you saw was a false decode, which sometimes happens.

      73, Mark

  2. Michael

    Hi Mark …
    received your 2m FT8 signal today with a GP4 vertical in JO50GQ (distance 1308km).
    2 decodes on the RTL-SDR(txco) on Odrod C1 as monitor on 144.174 with -7 and -12dB

    73 de Michael DG0OPK

  3. Gabriel

    Hello ,

    great to hear your loud signal in MS last Sunday morning during the VHF Contest. I was as IZ5FDD/4 in JN54PF , thanks for the DX ever and if you have recorded the qso please send the audio to me ))) it is great to have it in my collection.
    my email is iz5fdd ( at )

    I also have recorded our QSO but unfortunately our audio was cut-off from the laptop ,only your trasmission is audible )
    See you in some other band , 6m maybe

    Bye Bye Gabriel IZ5FDD

    1. Mark Turner Post author

      Thanks for the QSO Gabriel, there were some very good and long MS bursts. The SDR was extremely helpful to spot big bursts and click with PC mouse to QSY the rig quickly! Unfortunately I did not record the QSO, I forgot…

      73, Mark

  4. Tomas

    Unfortunately I dont see your interesting video both in chrome and firefox. Any other source of video, as youtube? Tnx! Tomas OK2PNQ

    1. Mark Turner Post author

      Hi Tomas, you have to enable and allow Adobe Flash in your browser to see the video, then it works fine. I’m sorry, there’s no alternative version available at the moment.

      73, Mark


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