Sunday, July 15, 2012

Miles Above Me (Us)

Ovation Aurora Data
When I make my way into my shack and turn on my radio, my first glance is to my Spectrum Scope in my Icom 756PRO. When I see nothing on that scope, I check to make sure my remote antenna switch is on. If that is on, I double check that the antenna selected is the proper antenna for the band. If I don't hear or see anything, I can assume that something is going on miles above my home. Today is just one of those days (again). I have slowly tuned through all bands with not one single soul being heard. In checking some of our space weather technology websites, it does not take long to figure out how strong and for how long. The Ovation Aurora site shown above is one of my favorites. 

HAARP's Magnetometer
If you have read any of my previous posts, you will find I make reference to HAARP on a regular basis. Controversial to some, admired by those who follow the effects of solar wind and solar flares on propagation. HAARP is in our Alaskan backyard so it's a great resource to see what's going on miles overhead to the earth's magnetic field. To the right, you can see the arrival of the Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that took place not long ago.  This was due to a solar flare from the active regions around sunspots 1520 & 1521. This was a disturbance I sure would of loved to see happen during the winter as I'm sure the Aurora would of been pretty spectacular. But, with our many hours of daylight here during the summer months, that is one event that tourists and locals alike won't be able to see.

HAARP's Riometer
HAARP's Riometer is another useful tool when propagation is nonexistent. To communicate around the world via radio waves, those waves need to bounce off of the Ionosphere. When they are absorbed rather than reflected, our HF radios become very quiet. The "E" and "F" layers are the ones you probably hear referenced the most in our hobby. Tomas, NW7US writes and posts many informative articles on the effects of solar activity (or lack of) on our wonderful hobby. 

When I first got into ham radio many years ago, these resources were not available as the World Wide Web and Internet were in its youth. I would have read about events like this days or weeks afterwards in publications. Now, all you need to do is log into these websites and see solar weather data as real time as local weather radar map data. All of these websites are a must for the avid DX enthusiast. These are just three of the many websites that I check while enjoying my morning cup of coffee. One thing I'm not sure science has solved is why lots of this activity happens on contest weekends? That, we many never know...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Weather, Space Weather and IARU

HAARP Data during IARU Contest 2012
It has been nearly a month since my last post but summer is in full swing here. Our weather has been cool and damp on a regular basis and just a few mornings ago, I saw a local temp of 38 degrees. Highs have peaked (lately) in the 50's. We have received a nearly 6¼" of rain since I uncovered our rain gauge at the beginning of May. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining as I see the extreme temperatures those in the lower 48 are experiencing so I will take this weather any day over that heat!

The sun has been pretty active and I had intentions of giving a run in the IARU Contest. Normally, summer is a tough time to get on the air as we have so much going on and it's our busy season. With the geomagnetic activity of late, the bands were very poor here. There were times at the beginning of the contest that I could not hear a single station. Thankfully, 15 meters opened up a bit on Saturday afternoon allowing for me to make a few contacts. I did not spend lots of time in the shack as I had some home projects going on but I did manage a bit over 50 QSO's. Last year, I made well over 100 contacts but that was not going to happen this year. I just did some S&P (Search & Pounce) on 15 and 20 meters when I had a few minutes here and there. Lots of flutter on signals, especially those back east in Zone 8. I'm limited to low power yet but most everyone I called with my 100 watts heard me. Not bad considering the conditions.

The photo above shows the absorption increase as recorded at HAARP. Now, I'm not blaming the sun on my computer error but maybe my DELL is also effected by solar activity! For some reason, it wanted to tell Microsoft all about it! 

I recently dropped my 6 meter beam and removed my wind damaged 2/440 vertical from my second tower. All I need to do now is put my 6 meter beam on my high tower above my HF beam and get my Hex Beam up on the small tower. That would give me a beam on 12 & 17 meters! I'm looking forward to getting on those bands. I'm hoping I don't run out of time as I have in summers past. Winter normally arrives here in September so I have a few more months yet before we enter back into our hibernation season. Working a bit of CW today made me excited for the upcoming contest season. Until then, I plan on enjoying as much of this midnight sun as possible.