Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Bittersweet & Warming Weekend

Sunshine above Mount Healy, Alaska.
Alaskan's look forward to the return of sunshine after doing without it (or seeing very little of it) for the last few months. The sun is now higher than Mount Healy which is just to my south (as seen to the left) and soon we will be able to enjoy the direct sunshine all afternoon. The sun brings hope for longer and warmer days after experiencing a dark and cold winter. Alaskan winters can be pretty harsh but the summers make up for a large part of that. The Midnight Sun is something that I will never get tired of. When the day comes that we depart this great state for our southern retirement ground, I will sure miss it. Some people have problems adjusting to 24 hours of daylight but I welcome it with open arms! I can only hope someday when my wife and I retire that we spend our summers in Alaska and winters someplace a bit more...let's say brighter and warmer.

The sun can bring warmth and enjoyment but as I have mentioned so many times, the sun can produce plenty of silence for the northern exposed ham radio operator. This was this case this past weekend. The effects of a solar wind caused a geomagnetic storm that rendered the ham bands useless for me.
HAARP showed lots of absorption and it was obvious after checking the website and listening to the bands, my hopes of operating in the MN QSO Party and a few others were shattered. Only the strongest signals were heard and on a few occasions, the signals would be there one minute and gone the next. Even as I write this, signals are extremely weak and most that I am hearing are from the far left coast.

Aurora as seen from KL8DX & KL8SU's QTH
The bittersweet part to this story is that during the winter we experience these geomagnetic storms. Often times we are treated to an auroral display that can last for hours. As we approach spring, these displays get a bit more pronounced. I was able to spend time outdoors last night capturing a few photos of the green lights of winter overhead. It is frustrating sometimes when you look forward to a weekend of radio activity and a geomagnetic storm puts a damper on your efforts, however it's always great to see the Northern Lights, too. Many have never experienced the Aurora but when the conditions are right, the Aurora can be viewed well into the lower 48 states (I have photographs I took of the Aurora when we lived in Ohio). I'm just thankful we had clear skies this weekend so we could at least enjoy the light show. What's depressing is when there is no radio activity and the clouds overhead keep you from viewing this magnificent wonder.

The sun can make the heavens shine bright even on the darkest nights. As I have written before, the summer midnight sun and the green lights of winter are my most favorite. I'm glad that during these geomagnetic storms the bands head south otherwise, I would miss events like last night. It might be cold outside but the green lights of winter warm the heart and soul. At least for me it does.


  1. I don't think I could take your winters - I find our gloomy northern English winters bad enough - but that aurora picture is beautiful. If I was there I guess I'd try to bounce some 144MHz signals off it. I hope to see the Northern Lights myself some day.

  2. Wow, what a nice sight. I never have seen Aurora here. It must be wonderful. 73 Paul

  3. The 24 hours of darkness or day light for that matter would take some getting used to for sure. As for the winter and darkness to boot not to keen on that for sure. I have seen many documentaries on Alaska and it is a very beautiful state for sure. Just once about 6 years ago we experienced northern lights and it was amazing.

  4. Julian, I had 6 meters up and running but I have worked maybe only one 6 meter AU contact. Maybe it's hard for me to bounce off of it due to being in the middle of it? I worked lots of 2, 432, and 6 meter AU when we lived in Ohio. I miss it actually. I hope you get to see the AU, too! Breathtaking for sure!

  5. Paul, thanks! I took several photos and this was only one as you can see my 6 meter beam in the foreground. The was the best display I have seen in ages. Just glad the weather cooperated and it was warm and clear!

  6. VE3WDM - I worked midnights for years when we lived back east so I guess I adjusted to the light issue without any problems. The cold, dry air was a different story. Winters can sure be extreme and even though I had experienced cold temperatures, they were nothing like we get here. With that said, I guess we just dress warmer and spend a bit less time outdoors which makes for a great excuse to play radio for the winter :0) You're right, the AU is amazing and I am still just as taken back with viewing them as I was the very first day I saw them lights dancing directly overhead. I do feel very lucky to live and play here!