Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Solar Cycle 25 - Where Are We Headed?

 

This coming week might be a significant one for the progress of Solar Cycle 25. Going forward, the next two months should give us a good indication of just exactly where our latest cycle is heading.

Cycle 25 is now in its 21st month, having started in November 2019. 

One way to gauge the growth of a cycle is by observing the radio energy it emits at 2800MHz (10.7cm).

This ‘solar flux’ value changes from day to day and from hour to hour, depending mainly on the number of sunspots and their level of activity.

The 2800MHz real-time solar flux units are published three times per day, after being measured at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, British Columbia. The ‘observed values’ are the actual measured levels while the ‘adjusted values’ reflect compensations for things such as the Sun-Earth distance, background sky noise, solar bursts, atmospheric absorption etc. Of the two values, the ‘adjusted value’ is more descriptive of the Sun’s true behaviour.

Although far from definitive, comparisons with previous cycles may shed some light on Cycle 25’s future. We should remember that almost all predictions from various solar physicists called for another very weak cycle, some saying even weaker than Cycle 24, the poorest in the past 100 years. Of the many predictions, one that varied substantially from the pack was one from Dr. Scott McIntosh’s team.

Their paper called for a very strong cycle, possibly the strongest one ever. We should know shortly which path our latest cycle will favor.

Let’s compare some of the things now known for sure about Cycle 25 with Cycle 19 (strongest ever recorded), Cycles 21, 22 and 23 (all strong, above average cycles that produced several winters of exciting 6m F2 propagation) and the recently-completed Cycle 24 (weakest in past 100 years).

A good indicator of a cycle’s possible future strength is the time that it takes to ramp-up and to really start building. Usually weaker cycles take much longer to do this so one way of looking at Cycle 25’s future might be to see how long it took each of these cycles to reach an adjusted solar flux value of 100. 

Strong cycles are usually fast risers once growth is triggered. Most cycles start with flux values in the 60s and dither around for months or years with short surges into the 80s and 90s before dropping back again. A flux of 100 seems significant when looking at previous cycles as it is often the level where steady upward growth really begins, with fewer surges to a lower level.

Cycle 19

The ‘grandaddy’ of them all. It began in April ‘54 and eventually peaked with a SSN (Smoothed Sunspot Number) of 285. The highest solar flux reached was 345. Cycle 19 took 14 months to hit a solar flux of 100, then dropped back to the 80s for several weeks before ramping up once again. This time it just kept growing. Both hemispheres of the Sun were at similar levels of activity resulting in a cycle with a very strong single peak.

Cycle 21 

Another strong cycle following a weak Cycle 20. It peaked with a SSN of 233 and produced a high flux level of 365.
Cycle 21 took 16 months to reach a solar flux of 100, dropping down to 70s and 80s for three months before taking off.

Cycle 22 

A robust cycle as well with a SSN of 213 and a peak flux of 335. Cycle 22 took 12 months to reach a solar flux of 100, dropping down again for a month before taking off.

Cycle 23

The third in a row of strong cycles but not as strong as the previous two. Cycle 23 reached a SSN of 180 and a flux high of 285 and like the others, produced a lot of exciting fireworks on 50MHz.
It took Cycle 23 just 3 months to reach a flux of 100 where it remained for a week before dropping back to the 70s and 80s for another 10 months. It repeated this 'surge to 100' pattern several times for 8 more months before taking off. Perhaps the original spurt at 3 months was flare-induced and a bit of an anomaly.

Cycle 24

The just-completed weakest cycle in the past 100 years, Cycle 24 had a SSN of 116 and a peak flux of 253. It took Cycle 24 a whopping 26 months to reach a solar flux of 100.

Cycle 25

Our present cycle took just 12 months to reach a flux of 100, remaining above this level for 10 days with a peak value of 115 solar flux units. Dropping back below 100, it remained there for 10 months before this week's present climb back above 100.

This is where we are today, with the solar flux presently at 104, after climbing steadily for the past two weeks. This is an impressive  increase of 30 flux units during the past 27-day rotation period!

Today's Sun
 

From the above comparison, Cycle 25’s early spurt to a flux level of 100 is very encouraging, while its 10 month sag shortly thereafter was a little discouraging for those expecting things to keep rising.

From looking at previous cycle behaviors, this should now be Cycle 25’s time to continue rising. If the cycle is to be a strong one, it will need to show some continued growth in the next few months. However, one thing seems almost certain ... we are not looking at a repeat of Cycle 24.

All cycles seem content to play in the 70-80 flux zone until triggered into steady upward growth. This triggering or ‘terminator’ event appears to be related to the final end of the previous sunspot cycle and more particularly, to the end of the Sun’s 22-year magnetic (Hale) cycle. The arrival of the terminator is a crucial component in the McIntosh papers and identifying its appearance is difficult, until it becomes obvious by a surge in cycle growth. This is the stage we are at presently.

Cycle 25’s original strong growth surge to well above 100 flux units, just 12 months after starting, had many wondering if this was indeed the terminator’s arrival ... but steady upward growth did not continue. 

This week’s second surge past 100, has posed the question once again. If indeed this is the terminator’s arrival then we should see a continued increase in growth within the next 27-day solar rotation. If this transpires now, it would tend to indicate that Cycle 25 will be above average in strength. If flux values drop again for several months, this would not be a positive sign. For solar observers, the next two months will be of great interest.

The McIntosh et al. paper describes the relationship between the spacing of terminators and the magnitude of sunspot cycles. Their bold prediction relies on this relationship. Low amplitude cycles correspond to widely separated terminators while strong cycles have shorter separations.

The period between terminators (end of previous cycle’s activity) reflects this characteristic.
Monster Cycle 19 had a spacing of just 9.8 years (118 months), while weak Cycle 24 had a 12.8 year (154 months) wait for the terminator. The spacing for strong Cycles 21, 22 and 23 averaged 10.5 years.

The last terminator event was 10.75 years (129 months) ago so the urgency for an imminent arrival, signalling an above average cycle is evident.

One more look at the terminator arrival in terms of a cycle’s start time may also be of interest.

Cycle 19’s terminator event occurred in its 21 month. Cycle 21 waited for 24 months. Cycle 22 and Cycle 23 both waited 27 months, while weak Cycle 24 had a long wait of 37 months. The average wait for all strong cycles (including Cycle 19) is 24.75 months. Excluding Cycle 19 results in a 26 month average. So far, Cycle 25 has been waiting 21 months. This may be another positive indicator of a large cycle if the terminator arrives shortly.

Closely following the level of solar activity and more particularly the growth of a new solar cycle has always been a fascinating aspect of my radio activities. I’m also surprised at the number of hams who seem to take little interest or have little understanding of what is happening on the Sun that plays such a crucial role in the propagation of our signals.

I’ll be following the daily reports on the Sun’s growth carefully over the next few weeks. It's encouraging to see new sunspot regions forming quickly and today another new active area is rotating into view on the eastern (left side) limb. Can you find the new spot in today’s image?

Let’s all hope that Cycle 25 is about to ramp-up for real this time. If the flux remains above 100 going into the fall, we should see some nice transcontinental activity on 28MHz as was the case for Cycle 25's initial flirtation with a flux of 115 in the early winter of 2020. Hopefully the next few rotations will be very exciting!

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Hunting For NDBs In CLE 271

https://ns6t.net/azimuth/azimuth.html

 

 

 

 It's CLE time! 'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated  Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of  the NDB spectrum.

 
This one is a little different, requiring that you log beacons in two directions only, by choosing a favorable compass bearing and sticking with it. Beacons, only in countries, states or provinces through which that bearing passes, can be logged. See below for further details from the organizers.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, now decommissioned, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmitted on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier was tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident could be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone was actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone was 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!

From CLE organizers comes the following CLE info:

Hello all

 Back in June 2007 and at Christmas - New Year 2017/18 we very much enjoyed our first ‘Bearings CLEs’.  So it is now high time for a third one:

 

     Days:     Friday 27 August - Monday 30 August 2021 

     Times:   Start and end at midday your LOCAL time

     Range:   190 – 1740 kHz

     Target:   Up to 10 NDBs in each Radio Country on your chosen bearing

 

You choose a bearing in any one direction from you and try to log UP TO 10 normal NDBs (not DGPS, Navtex or Amateur) in each of the Radio Countries
crossed by your line.   A country is OK even if your line slices only a little bit of it.  Countries in the opposite direction (‘back bearings’) ALSO COUNT this time.

Any ONE bearing that you choose will be good, 0 to 180 degrees (clockwise from North) - it must be a whole number of degrees (not 34.5, etc.).

 

Remember that each USA and Australian State and each Canadian Province is a Radio Country.   For the full list of our countries please see http://www.ndblist.info/ndbinfo/countrylist.pdf

(If your line crosses the sea, any platforms roughly in that direction would also qualify as a radio country for the CLE - e.g. XOE).

 

TO CHOOSE YOUR BEARING you can use a GREAT CIRCLE MAP centred on your location.  Radio signals use these shortest routes round the Earth like planes try to do.

(For non-dx loggings an ordinary map (Mercator projection) would be OK, especially if your location is near the centre of it)

We recommend the program https://ns6t.net/azimuth/azimuth.html - it is very easy to download and use.

Just put in your location (ideally your 6-character Locator), choose a distance and click on ‘Create Map’.

It misses out some country boundaries, and a few countries, but looking also at a ‘normal’ map would help with that.

 

Also good would be GOOGLE EARTH, a powerful program for lots of purposes. Click on its ‘stubby’ Ruler icon, zoom in to your own location and draw a line from there with the mouse. It tells you the distance and Bearing ('Heading') as you extend it further away from home. When satisfied, ‘Save’ it with a description.

 

For this CLE you will enjoy planning your own tactics.  You could try out a directional aerial, include favourite countries, concentrate on DX or on more local reception, exclude signals from the direction of your worst QRN - any or all of those things, and more.   The aim is not to try and include as many countries or as many NDBs as possible, though you could of course do that if you want to!

 

Please send your CLE log to the List, if possible as a plain text email and not in an attachment, showing 'CLE271' and ‘FINAL’ in its title.

Please include on EVERY line of your log:

               # The date  e.g ‘2021-08-27’

               # The time logged in UTC (days change at 00:00 UTC).

               # kHz - the beacon's nominal frequency.

               # The Call Ident.

 

It is important to show those main items FIRST – any other details that you want to add such as the Country, Location, Distance, etc., go LATER in the same line.

As usual, you can show your loggings in any sequence, though you may prefer to choose radio country order.

Don't forget to give your OWN location (e.g. Locator), your chosen BEARING and details of your receiver and aerial(s), etc.   Any interesting details about your planning or listening would also brighten our reading!

 

Do make sure that your FINAL log has arrived on the List by 08:00 UTC on Wednesday 1st September at the very latest.   We'll send a CLE271 'Any More Logs?' email at about 19:00 UTC on Tuesday 31st so you can check that your log has been found OK.

 

Good listening

  Brian

(CLE Coordinator)

 

(If you wish you could use any one remote receiver for your bearings log,

stating the location and owner – and with their permission if required.

A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, local or remote, to

make further loggings for the same CLE)

 

These listening events serve several purposes. They 
 
• determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the newly-re-vamped Rxx online database can be kept up-to-date

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range


• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations


• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working


• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed


Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.


The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!
_._,_._,_

 

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Loop On Ground (LOG) Tests At VA7ST

Single LOG / Dual LOG - courtesy: va7st.ca
 

As man-made noise levels become ever more problematic for radio amateurs, particularly those that are serious about weak-signal DX on the lower bands (160 / 80m), the ‘Loop On Ground’ or ‘LOG’ is proving to be a worthwhile improvement for some.

Bud, VA7ST, near Kelowna, has done some recent experimenting with a LOG as an alternative to listening with his 160 / 80m transmitting antennas and has written a great blog on his findings.

Bud has included some ‘A-B’ tests comparing the LOG to his normally-used vertical or inverted-L and the results are quite interesting.

If you’ve ever considered building a separate quieter low-band antenna, you can find everything you might need to get motivated as well as a nice listing of LOG-related links in Bud’s very helpful blog:

https://va7st.ca/2021/02/matching-transformer-for-loop-on-ground-and-beverage-antennas/

and

https://va7st.ca/2021/01/hearing-through-the-noise-on-the-low-bands/

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Hunting For NDBs In CLE 270

 

YPO - Peawanuck, ON - 401kHz (www.ve3gop.com)
 

It's CLE time! 'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated  Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of  the NDB spectrum.

 
It's another normal one again with a 20kHz window -- the hunting ground is 400.0 - 419.9kHz.

A 'challenge target' for listeners in North America is YPO - 401kHz in Peawanuck, ... in north - central Ontario just south of Hudson Bay. Listen for YPO's upper sideband on 401.399kHz. YPO has been heard in Europe, throughout North America and west to Hawaii. Its 125W and ~70' tower work well!


When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, now decommissioned, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmitted on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier was tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident could be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone was actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone was 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!

From CLE organizers comes the following CLE info:

 

Our 270th Coordinated Listening Event starts on Friday.

This frequency range is not packed with signals for any of us, but if conditions are OK there could be some nice surprises.

Do join in, whether you have days to spare, or only an hour or so over the weekend. 

 

     Days:     Friday 23 July - Monday 26 July 2021

     Times:   Start and end at midday your LOCAL time

     Range:   400 - 419.9 kHz

 

Please log all the NDBs that you can identify with nominal (listed) frequencies in the range - it includes 400 kHz, but not 420 kHz - plus any UNIDs that you come across there.

Send your final log to the List (no attachments please) with ‘CLE270’ and 'FINAL' in its title.

Show on each line:

    #   The Date (e.g.  '2021-07-23', etc.,  or just '23' )

    #   The Time in UTC (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).

    #   kHz  - the nominal published frequency, if known.

    #   The Call Ident.

Please show those main items FIRST.   Other optional details such as Location and Distance go LATER in the same line.

As always, of course, tell us your own location and brief details of the equipment that you were using during the Event.

We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email at about 19:00 UTC on Tuesday so that you can check that your log has been found OK.

Do make sure that your log has arrived on the List by 08:00 UTC on Wednesday 28 July at the very latest.

We hope to complete making the combined results within a day or two.

You can find full details about current and past CLEs from the CLE page http://www.ndblist.info/cle.htm   It includes access to CLE270 seeklists for your part of the World, prepared from the previous loggings in Rxx.

Good listening

    Brian and Joachim

-------------------------------------------------------------------

From:      Brian Keyte G3SIA      ndbcle'at'ndblist.info

Location:  Surrey,  SE England     (CLE coordinator)

-------------------------------------------------------------------

(If you would like to listen remotely  you could use any one remote receiver for your loggings, stating its location and owner and with their permission if required. 

A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, local or remote, to make further loggings for the same CLE)

These listening events serve several purposes. They

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the newly-re-vamped Rxx online database can be kept up-to-date

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range


• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations


• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working


• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed


Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.


The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

 


 


 

 

 

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Single-Yagi EME

 

After being absent from 2m EME (moonbounce) for the past couple of years, I decided to spark-up again this spring to see if my simple system was still up to the task.

Pretty much every month, during the moon’s sweep through its northern declination, I get several days with moonrises right out in front of the house overlooking Georgia Strait. This is the large body of saltwater separating the British Columbian mainland (and the rest of North America) from Vancouver Island to my west.

Having an ‘over the ocean’ moonrise offers several advantages for me as it pretty well guarantees an extra 6db minimum of system gain (both on transmit and receive modes) and provides a noise-free environment for the antenna to look into.

Because of this advantage I’ve been able to get away with a very minimal system consisting of a single 9el Yagi and a small FM ‘brick’ amplifier which yields around 120W of output. The antenna is tower-mounted at 60’ and controlled in azimuth only. Without being able to track the moon as it rises, the Yagi is broad enough to give me about 2 hours of moon-time on each session before I start to lose signals. With most EME stations using four or more Yagis and high power, most of the heavy-lifting on my two-way work is being done by the other station. With the extra sea-gain here, my single 9el Yagi performs more like an array of four similar Yagis.
 

There always seems to be new stations to work whenever I get on the band and this spring was no exception. All told, I had 20 contacts, with 12 being new 'initials', bringing my total initials count to 130. The remaining 8 contacts were with stations I have worked previously. I was also able to add 2 new states, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, bringing my 2m WAS total to 30.

Conditions were poor to average, with one day in particular being excellent, when at one point I had a pileup of three callers!

Most of the stations contacted are always surprised to learn of my small system and comment that my station is the smallest one they have worked. I have worked a couple of two-Yagi stations over the years with one of them being worked several times.

Here are the cards that have arrived so far for this spring’s session:

If you haven’t given single-Yagi EME a try I would encourage you to test it out as you might be surprised at your results. Even without the added sea-gain, many of my contacts were loud enough to be easily workable with 6db less gain ... and there are dozens of big capable stations out there just waiting for new initials!

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Hunting For NDBs In CLE268

LF-336kHz courtesy: http://www.ve3gop.com/

It's CLE time! 'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated  Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of  the NDB spectrum.

 
It's another unique one again with a 200kHz window -- the hunting ground is 275.0 - 475kHz.

Propagation on MF has been both hot and cold for the past few weeks, seemingly depending on where you live and the amount of geomagnetic activity affecting your region. As well, the Sun has been throwing a lot of Coronal Hole Streams toward earth which may or may not affect this weekend's propagation ... but this is all part of the radio-magic fun.

A 'challenge target' for listeners in North America is LF - 336kHz in La Salle, Manitoba, in the southern central part of the province. Even though running just 50 watts, it's widely heard throughout North America and is a good target for listeners everywhere. Listen for LF's upper sideband on 336.390 kHz.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!

From CLE coordinator Brian Keyte (G3SIA), comes the following CLE info:

 Hello all,

Our sixth special 'Channels Challenge' listening event is nearly here.
These are the full details.

    Days:      Friday 28 May - Monday 31 May
    Times:     Start and end at midday, your LOCAL time
    Range:     275 kHz - 425 kHz   (see below)
    Target:    Try to log ANY ONE NDB in each channel

The main challenge is to try and log ONE NDB in each of the
151 channels in the range from 275 kHz up to 425 kHz inclusive.
The last time we did this was in CLE248 in September 2019.

The 'channel' means the NDB's NOMINAL (published) frequency.
(It may not be quite where you hear the Morse ident of course). 
In parts of the World some NDBs are on intermediate frequencies,
such as 321.5 kHz.  Logging an NDB on a 'half frequency' would be OK.
  E.g. OK for channel 321 would be  EITHER  one on 321.0 kHz
                OR  one on 321.5 (shown as 321.5 in your log of course).

Each NDB must be a 'normal' one - no DGPS, NAVTEX or amateur.
(If you hear any UNIDs, please show them in a separate list).

So it means a highest possible total of 151 CLE loggings in all - and that
will surely be impossible for everyone!

If you have extra time and want to make the challenge more interesting you
could include NDBs which:


   Give you the greatest number of DIFFERENT RADIO COUNTRIES heard.
   (See our Countries list at
http://www.ndblist.info/beacons/countrylist.pdf

 
    Each State/Province in USA, CAN and AUS is a separate radio country)
   OR  give the greatest TOTAL DISTANCE from you to all of the NDBs.
   OR  include the greatest number of MIDDAY LOGGINGS
          i.e. heard within 2 hours of midday by your local clock time.

Send your 'Final' CLE log to the List, ideally as a plain text email (not in
an attachment) and, IMPORTANT, with CLE268 and FINAL at the start of its
title.
Please show on EVERY LINE of your log:

   #   The full date or day no.  e.g. '2021-05-29' or just '29', etc.
          and UTC (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).
   #   kHz  - the beacon's nominal published frequency.
   #   The Call Ident.

Show those main items FIRST on every line, before other optional details
such as Location, Distance, Offsets, Cycle times, etc.

Tell us your location of course and details of your receiver, aerial, etc.

We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email at about 19:00 UTC on Tuesday
so you can check that we have received your log OK.
Do make sure that your log has arrived on the List at the very latest by
08:00 UTC on Wednesday 2 June.
We'll try to complete making the combined results within a day or two.

Good hunting,
   Brian and Joachim
-------------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Brian Keyte G3SIA       ndbcle@ndblist.info
Location:  Surrey,  SE England      (CLE coordinator)
-------------------------------------------------------------------

(Reminder:   You could use any ONE remote receiver for your loggings,
stating its location and owner - with their permission if required.
A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, whether local or
remote, to obtain further loggings for the same CLE).


If you are interested in some remote listening - maybe due to local difficulties - you could use any one remote receiver for your loggings, stating its location and with the owner's permission if required.( e.g. see  kiwisdr.com ) A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, local or remote, to make more loggings for the same CLE.

These listening events serve several purposes. They

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the newly-re-vamped Rxx online database can be kept up-to-date

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range


• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations


• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working


• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed


Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.


The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Using FT8 On 6m - The Magic Band

 

(The following blog, originally published last summer, is as relevant as ever. Please pass the link to those that you think may benefit from reading it.)

 

Today’s blog is directed to those that may be new to 6m or new to using FT8 on 6m. Some of the things discussed will make your experience on the magic band better for you and better for your neigbours.


Unlike using FT8 on the HF bands, 6m presents some different challenges, especially if you operate in a region where there may be a lot of other locals also using the band at the same time.


Although the weak-signal capability of FT8 has made it possible for many smaller stations or those with makeshift antennas to take advantage of the unique propagation 6m has to offer, it also can create problems for other users of the band when used inappropriately. In regions of dense population, even small stations can create very high local signal levels, often making it impossible for their neighbours to hear weak signals. This is not deliberately-caused QRM but arises when some operators operate 'against the flow’ and transmit on the opposite ‘sequence’ to everyone else in their local area.

If you are a new arrival, with a small or makeshift antenna for 6m, it's important to realize that you may not be hearing what others near you (with bigger antennas) are hearing and can easily mess things up when transmitting at the wrong time.

On HF, one can transmit or listen on whatever time sequence they wish. Chosing ‘TX 1st’ or ‘TX 2nd’ is usually determined by who you hear calling CQ or who you wish to work. On 6m however, in a densely-populated region of local operators, chosing to transmit whenever you want to is a luxury that can create big problems for your neighbour who may be trying to hear that weak DX signal while you are transmitting!

These problem will not occur if everybody in the region uses and follows the same transmit-receive periods, so that everyone is listening or everyone is transmitting at the same time ... one or the other. Unfortunately, this ‘ideal’ system falls apart easily when one or more of your neighbours is not using the same sequence as everyone else.

For the past few years, a protocol that seeks to alleviate this problem has become popular and well accepted by those familiar with it. Those new to 6m may not know about it or understand the reasoning behind it.

Above all, I would urge new users of the band, or to the FT8 mode, to first listen carefully for a few minutes, before beginning operation, to determine what the majority of stations in their local region are using for sequencing. If they are using ‘TX 1st’, then your choice of ‘TX 2nd’ will likely cause hearing difficulty for many others, as well as for yourself.

Although there are no strict rules, there is a very successful and well-practiced protocol, and it's that the ‘easternmost’ station transmits on ‘1st’ while the ‘western end’ goes 2nd’. This is why you will hear most eastern stations in the morning hours transmitting ‘2nd’, as they are usually calling or looking for Europeans to their east, who are transmitting ‘1st’. By the same token, you will also hear western stations transmitting on '2nd', who are also looking for Europe to their east, transmitting on ‘1st’.

This sequencing protocol usually reverses later in the day when signals from Asia become a possibility, and all North Americans then become the ‘easternmost’ stations and will transmit on the ‘1st’ sequence ... unlike in the morning. I can easily see how newcomers to the band could become confused, when they hear both sequences being used! The best thing, once again, is to listen carefully first and then ‘go with the flow’.

You can read about the UK's Six Metre Group's initiatives regarding these protocols HERE.

OK... so you’re not interested in EU or Asia? Then it shouldn’t matter to you which sequence that you use and best operating practice would again be to ‘go with the flow’ in consideration of other users.

A few days ago I saw a prime example of exactly what not to do, in too many respects. I made a posting on the ON4KST 6m chat page that VE1SKY in NS (Nova Scotia) was being decoded here, mainly to alert others in my region that European signals might be coming next, as hearing the VE1s in BC is often an indicator that the European path is building.

In less than a minute, an S9+ local began calling ‘CQ NS’ on the exact opposite sequence of all others ... effectively blocking the waterfall and any possible hope of hearing weak EU signals. I’m sorry, but this is just terrible operating procedure, with almost zero chance of success, while showing no consideration for nearby users.

Just like working DX on CW or on phone, the best way, as it always has been, is to ‘listen, listen and then listen some more’. You will work FAR more DX by listening and calling at the right time, than you will by calling CQ.

I also see some local stations everyday, calling endless CQs, often for over 60 minutes straight and often with many replies that go unnoticed. With FT8, one can check ‘work 1st’, go away, and return later to see who they might have ‘worked’. Perhaps this is what these operators are doing, but they should understand that they are also creating non-stop QRM for other users ... those that choose to listen carefully to the band rather than to endlessly CQ. Once again, this is just terrible practice.

You may argue that if nobody called CQ, then there would be no contacts made. There is nothing wrong with a few CQs but CQing for an hour? And don’t worry, there will always be other stations CQing endlessly for you to hear, even if it’s not a great way to operate.

With a little pre-planning for sequencing and consideration for your neighbours, everyone can and should be able to enjoy 6m FT8 with very few problems ... and that is my hope for all of us.

After forty-nine summers of CW and phone on 6m and two summers on FT8, these are some of my initial thoughts on how to best operate for maximum success and consideration for other band-users.

The latter is part of the basic framework upon which amateur radio was originally established, when back in 1914, the ARRL described in their 'Code of Conduct' for amateurs ... "The Amateur is Gentlemanly. He never knowingly uses the air for his own amusement in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others." 

Now, let the magic, and the pleasure, continue!

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Hunting For NDBs In CLE267

YUT - Replulse Bay, NU (courtesy: ve3gop.com) 
 
It's CLE time! 'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated  Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of  the NDB spectrum.
 
It's another 'normal' one again with a 15kHz window -- the hunting ground is 335.0 - 349.9kHz.

Propagation on MF has been both hot and cold for the past few weeks, seemingly depending on where you live and the amount of geomagnetic activity affecting your region. As well, the Sun has been throwing a lot of Coronal Hole Streams toward earth which may or may not affect this weekend's propagation ... but this is all part of the radio-magic fun.

A 'challenge target' for listeners in North America is YUT - 335kHz in Repulse Bay, NU, at the north end of Hudson Bay. Even though running just 25 watts, it's widely heard throughout North America and Europe and is a good target for listeners everywhere. Listen for YUT's upper sideband on 335.406 kHz.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!

From CLE coordinator Brian Keyte (G3SIA), comes the following CLE info:

Hello all

Here are the full details for this weekend's co-ordinated listening event.
It is open to everyone including CLE new-comers:

    Days:      Friday 23 April - Monday 26 April

    Times:     Start and end at midday, your LOCAL time

    Range:     335.0 - 349.9 kHz


Wherever you are, please join us and log the NDBs that you can positivelyidentify that are listed in this busy frequency range (it includes 335.0 kHz but not 350 kHz) plus any UNIDs that you come across there.

Very short logs and very long ones are welcome (in-between ones are OK too!)

 Send your CLE log to the List, preferably as a plain text email (not in an attachment) with ‘CLE267 FINAL’ in its subject line.

    Please show on EVERY LINE of your log:


       #  The date (e.g. '2021-04-2
3' or just the day no. '23') and UTC (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).


       #  kHz  (the beacon's nominal published frequency, if you know it)


       #  The Call Ident.


Show those main items FIRST on each line, before other optional details such as Location, Distance, etc.  If you send any interim logs to the
List during the event, please also send your 'FINAL', complete one.

Always make your log interesting to everyone by giving details of the listening location and brief details of the receiver, aerial(s), etc.,that you were using.


We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email at about 19:00 UTC on Tuesday so that you can check that your log has been found OK.
Do make sure that your log has arrived on the List at the very latest by 08:00 UTC on Wednesday 28 April.  Joachim and I will then hope
to complete making the combined results within a day or two.


You can check on all CLE-related information from the CLE Page


   
http://www.ndblist.info/cle.htm

 
It includes a link to seeklists for the Event from the Rxx Database.

Good listening
     Brian
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Brian Keyte G3SIA       ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location:  Surrey,  SE England      (CLE coordinator)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

(REMINDER:  You could use any one remote receiver for your loggings,
stating the location and owner - with their permission if required.
A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, whether local
or remote, to make further loggings for the same CLE).

 

If you are interested in some remote listening - maybe due to local difficulties - you could use any one remote receiver for your loggings, stating its location and with the owner's permission if required.( e.g. see  kiwisdr.com ) A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, local or remote, to make more loggings for the same CLE.

These listening events serve several purposes. They

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the newly-re-vamped Rxx online database can be kept up-to-date

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range


• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations


• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working


• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed


Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.


The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

 

Friday, 9 April 2021

An RF-Quiet LED 'Fluorescent' Bulb

 


 

 

I recently had the fluorescent bulb in one section of the under-cabinet kitchen counter lighting fixture go dark. This wasn’t too surprising as the 24” bulb had been in place since the house was built in 1990!


I purchased the replacement bulb only to find out that it was not the bulb but rather the ballast transformer that had failed.

A search for a suitable ballast replacement turned into a quick education when I learned that these things were quickly disappearing, with many models no longer even being manufactured. Another solution would have to be found and it appeared that fluorescents were bring replaced with, what else ... LED fixtures!

Offering similar brightness and colors as traditional fluorescent fixtures, the LED bulbs came in two basic styles.

One type lets you just pop-in a new LED ballast-compatible bulb and away you go. This is convenient but still wastes energy in the ballast and eventually would require an even harder to find ballast.

The second type is a directly-wired LED replacement, not relying on the ballast transformer at all. Having its own built-in switching power supply, these bulbs connect directly to the 120V AC line normally going to the ballast. It’s a very simple task to snip the 120V AC leads from the faulty ballast and connect them to one end of the bulb’s socket. Now totally disconnected, the original ballast can be left in place as is.





The entire fix took less than 30 minutes ... but how much noise or crud would the switching supply produce in the RF spectrum?

Crossing my fingers, I turned the light 'on' as well as my portable Sony ICF-2010 shortwave receiver. I could hear no noise coming from the radio. I could only detect some RF hash when I put the Sony (with its built-in ferrite bar antenna) right beside the fixture! This was good news and its quiet footprint was confirmed later, out in the shack, with radios connected to much larger antennas.

The bulb I used was a ‘toggled’ product, designed and engineered in Detroit , but I suspect is manufactured, like so many other LED devices, in China. The bulbs are sold in Canada and in the U.S. by Home Depot and possibly others.



If you’re looking for a radio-friendly fluorescent replacement or update, I have no hesitation in recommending these directly-wired LED bulbs from ‘toggled’.

And, if you’re also looking for a ham-friendly light-dimmer, see my previous blog on my own hunt for a noisy next-door neighbour.