Archive for June, 2012

Amateur Radio in June

June 26, 2012

Shortwave propagation is often not very good in the summertime. With the sun high in the sky, the D-layer of the ionosphere is highly ionized during daylight hours. The D-layer tends to absorb radio waves, especially at the lower shortwave frequencies.

But I managed to get a lot done this month. Field Day was last weekend. KY-QRP set up as part of the Bluegrass Amateur Radio Society’s Field Day operation at Mary Todd Park in Lexington. I did not operate there, but did visit and help some with gophering, equipment setup and advice. Pictures of the KY-QRP group are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ku4a/sets/72157630270335646/

I operated Field Day from home, running 5 watts of power using batteries. In the scheme of things, this is called “class 1E”, which means one transmitter using emergency power from home. In 10 hours of operating, I made 219 contacts (177 using Morse Code and 42 using voice). This was a few more than I had last year.

The North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) had a couple of interesting operating activities this month. One was “poker hands”, where you make poker hands from the callsigns of stations you work running 5-watts or less using Morse Code. In addition, the club gives out certificates for anyone who works 20 or more states during Field Day using Morse Code at a power of 5-watts or less. I had 42.

June is probably the best month of the year for sporadic-E propagation. Small but intensely ionized regions of the E-layer of the ionosphere cause the 6-meter band (50 MHz) and the upper shortwave bands to come alive. In an earlier post, I mentioned my grid squares confirmed on 6m. I worked a bunch of new grids this month. I am hoping to hit 300 grids confirmed in the next few years.

 

 

Meteor Scatter

June 26, 2012

I’ve always been fascinated by meteor scatter, the act of using meteor trails to reflect VHF/UHF radio signals. But although I’ve been a licensed ham for decades I had never tried it until recently.

In researching it a bit, I found that in this day and age it is common to use special digital transmission modes for meteor scatter. In order to draw many hams together at the same time, “Random Hours” have been scheduled for Saturday morning. The term “random” refers to the fact that you can work stations without making special arrangements in advance.

I have been active on 6-meter meteor scatter on recent Saturday mornings. I made a contact with a station using the “ISCAT” mode, but I am not sure whether it was actually via meteor scatter. I have heard other stations but have made no other QSOs. There are certain times of the year in which meteor activity increases, and so I expect to have better results then.

The software virtually everybody uses is Joe Taylor’s excellent WSJT. It is free and supports a number of different digital modes that are excellent for use with meteor scatter. It can be downloaded here: http://www.pingjockey.net/ This web site also hosts a chat room that is commonly used by meteor scatter operators.

The 30 Meter Digital Group

June 26, 2012

This November, the 30 Meter Digital Group will celebrate it’s fifth anniversary. This worldwide club (for which there is no dues) has the goal of promoting the use of the 30-meter amateur band (10.100 to 10.150 MHz). This band is ignored by a lot of hams, because voice communications are not permitted in the United States. But Morse Code and all manner of digital modes can be used there.

30MDG has a web site (http://www.30mdg.net/) and a Yahoo group. To me the most interesting part of the club is its extensive awards program. You do not need QSL cards to apply for awards. The certificates confirming your accomplishments are e-mailed to you. They are beautiful and are well worth printing for your wall or certificate book.

In addition, if you use a computer to keep your logs, you don’t need to do any work to determine the awards for which you qualify. A freeware program called “U30” can be downloaded and installed on your computer. This program examines your log (in the form of an ADIF file) and tells you what you have won! You merely push a button to send an application for your award(s) to the manager(s) that handle them. When time permits the awards manager sends you your certificate.

I’ve already received the following awards from about 4 years of casual operation on 30 meters:

30 contacts

50 members of 30MDG

100 members of 30MDG

10 European entities

28 European entities

10 CQ Zones

50 contacts with duration of 15 minutes or more

15 ITU Zones

100 prefixes

8 Caribbean entities

30 QRP contacts

50 DXCC countries

“WISE” (QSOs with Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England)

As time goes by, I will run the U30 program again and see what additional awards I have earned.

Card Checking

June 26, 2012

One of the great innovations of the last few years for the American Radio Relay League award programs is the establishment of a system of volunteer “card checkers”. These hams can examine QSL cards that you are submitting to apply for an award to verify that they a valid. This prevents hams from having to ship their precious cards to ARRL headquarters for checking.

With a fair amount of time on my hands this Spring, I finally got a chance to get caught up on some award applications. On the VHF bands, there are awards for confirming various numbers of “grid squares” (based on the Maidenhead Locator System http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maidenhead_Locator_System ). On 6 meters (50 MHz) I have confirmed 262 grids, more than enough for the first level of VUCC (VHF/UHF Century Club). On the HF (shortwave) bands, I have a bunch of QSL cards confirming foreign countries on various bands.

Matt, AA4XA who lives near Ashland is a card checker for DXCC. He welcomed me into his home in early June and checked a bunch of cards for me. He then signed the application and mailed it to the ARRL. For VUCC, Ed, N4HID who lives in Bowling Green is a card checker. A couple Sundays ago, Ed was in Shelbyville for a picnic. He was kind enough to meet me and check my cards. The VUCC application was then mailed to ARRL Headquarters.

When the ARRL completes processing the applications, I will be able to apply for several DXCC awards. For VUCC the League will send me a certificate, and then applications for future milestones will be handled online (with most confirmations via Logbook of The World).