New Hope For Cycle 25!

Unlike most forecasts for solar Cycle 25, a recently released paper from five solar scientists (1) has given many 6m diehards new reasons to hope!

After countless dire predictions for the upcoming cycle indicating similar or even poorer activity levels than the disappointing Cycle 24, the new paper suggests just the opposite!

In fact, the group of scientists predict that "Cycle 25 will probably be among the strongest solar cycles ever observed, and that it will almost certainly be stronger than present SC24 (116 spots) and most likely stronger than the previous cycle 23 (180 spots)." The possibility of a smoothed sunspot number (SSN) reaching as high as 305 is in the prediction!

Solar Cycle 19 was a monster, reaching a SSN level of 285 ... to imagine the possibility of something even stronger is truly exciting. The just-ending Cycle 24 was one of the weakest on record, reaching an SSN of just 116.

Will Cycle 25 replace Cycle 19 as #1? Image source with my addition in RED.

During Cycle 24, maximum usable frequencies (MUF) for F2 propagation often struggled just to reach 28MHz, and except for the peak year, the worldwide propagation conditions that amateurs had come to expect were often absent.

Should these new optimistic predictions come to pass, 6m operators can look forward to some truly, never-before-seen, fall and winter propagation ... for at least three or more winters.

With SSN values reaching the high two-hundreds or beyond, west coast operators can expect to see the 6m band often open before sunrise, most likely favoring Europe via the polar path or towards Africa via the trans-Atlantic path. Unlike 20m, there will be little to no ‘polar flutter’ and since signals propagating near the F2 MUF suffer very little path loss, they will probably be very strong.

Later in the day, propagation will shift south towards Central and South America before moving to the west. Depending on the time of year, the propagation will favor Asia, with signals from Japan, China and other far-eastern exotica in the early fall through the New Year. As well, the band will often stay open for some time after local sunset. Late winter and spring will see the western path favour signals from down under, and stretch out to the southern far east regions towards the Indian Ocean. These were the propagation patterns noted from here during Cycles 21-23, when SSNs reached 233, 214 and 180 respectively.

With much gratitude to Mark (VA7MM) for converting my old analog tapes to mp3, here is a recording I made on the morning of November 7, 1979, at the height of Cycle 21. It will give you a taste of what could be in store. On that Wednesday morning, the band opened around 0800 and continued through to sunset, closing with a three-hour opening to the Pacific and Japan. Like many other 6m operators, I had taken the day off work with a case of the 'F2 flu' that was very prevalent that winter! The recording begins with a short exchange between VE1ASJ and VE1AVX, while trying to work their first KL7 ...

F2 from Cycle 21

The graph of Cycle 21 shows when the recording was made. Although not known at the time, it was very close to the peak of the cycle.



A record-busting Cycle 25 will be like these previous cycles only on steroids! With such a cycle, 10m will follow a similar pattern but will likely be open 24/7 as I recall listening to VKs and ZLs on 10m AM well after midnight during the downward climb of Cycle 19 ... and this was on a very '10m-deaf' Hallicrafters S-38 and a short wire out the attic window!

For those wanting to read the fascinating paper (Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude), you can find a pdf here. As well, you can read the ARRL’s own announcement of this exciting possibility here.

One certainty is, that if FT8 is still around by then, it and your soundcard will fold up quickly once the band opens with wall-to-wall S9++ signals. It may be useful during the first early minutes or during marginal openings, but knowing the signal levels that 6m F2 can produce, it will be like trying to use FT8 with dozens of new neighbors operating on your own block ... and you can easily guess how well that might work! As we’ve come to understand, FT8 is a wonderful weak-signal mode, but throw just one bone-crushing signal into the waterfall and it’s game-over ... on F2, there will be dozens of these!

Such stellar conditions on 6m are ideally suited to CW or SSB and I think there will be a fast exodus from FT8 back to the traditional modes very early ... those that aren’t prepared for this, relying only on FT8, will most likely be in for a rude awakening. If you’re a 6m “no-coder”, now’s the time to hunker-down and learn CW ... by the time Cycle 25 becomes productive, you won’t be left out of the many CW DX opportunities that will surely be available on this much quicker QSO mode.

We will no doubt be reading more about this as Cycle 25 begins to grow. As in almost all stronger than normal cycles, growth from the start to the peak is much shorter than normal so I’ll be watching for a fast rise in sunspot numbers once we are really underway.

Hindcast modelling (backtesting) of the data derived from previous cycles going back to the 1700s using the paper’s prediction methodology, shows an accurate alignment with what actually occurred. The red dots in the graph above indicate the model’s predicted peak superimposed on the actual peak. In some cases, the peaks were even higher than the modelling suggested.

The predictions identify the so-called “termination” events, landmarks marking the start and end of sunspot and magnetic activity cycles, extracting a relationship between the temporal spacing of terminators and the magnitude of sunspot cycles. The success of these predictions will depend upon an upcoming terminator event before the end of 2020. Should it occur on time, the predictions will be given a much greater chance of coming to fruition ... "with a terminator event in 2020, we deduce that sunspot cycle 25 will have a magnitude that rivals the top few since records began. This outcome would be in stark contrast to the community consensus estimate of sunspot cycle 25 magnitude."

More interesting discussions of the paper can be found here and here.

This week's high-latitude Cycle 25 sunspots are a great sign. When the terminator event occurs, solar activity will ramp-up very quickly, within one 27 day solar rotation. Let's hope we're getting close.

As noted in the paper, "Very early indications of the spot pattern are appearing at higher than average latitudes. Historically, high latitude spot emergence has been associated with the development of large amplitude sunspot cycles — only time will tell."

Hopefully we’ll all need to hold on to our hats ... it just might just be the ride of our lives!

(1) Scott W. McIntosh (1), Sandra C. Chapman (2), Robert J. Leamon (3,4), Ricky Egeland (1), and Nicholas W. Watkins (2,5,6)

1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307, USA.
2 Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
3 University of Maryland, Department of Astronomy, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
4 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 672, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA.
5 Centre for the Analysis of Time Series, London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AZ, UK 

6 School of Engineering and Innovation, STEM Faculty, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Tweaking the Endfed antenna.

I have been doing some reading regarding Endfed antennas and the length of 44 feet kept coming up as the length for a short Endfed antenna in small lots. My Endfed was just extended from 34 feet to 41 feet which I spoke about in my last post.   My plan now was to try the 44-foot length of wire and see what the results were both using a counterpoise and not using one. This was going to be a trial project so the extra 3 feet of wire I am to add is not at this point going to be permanent. 
I cut a 3-foot piece of wire and placed soldered terminal ring connectors at each end. My plan was to remove the antenna wire from the balun end which already had a terminal ring connector on it. Then bolt antenna ring connector to the 3-foot piece and the other end of the 3-foot extension that was to be connected to the balun connector. This would give me the extra 3 feet needed to extend things to 44 feet. Once the 44 feet was stretch out I found out very quickly that 44 feet is the maximum length I can use between my shed and tree.
Three feet of wire

With the counterpoise attached, I went into the shack and ran through the bands using my MFJ 259B antenna analyzer and recorded the results and then once again with the counterpose removed. As a side note, one of the best purchases I made was the antenna analyzer, it makes short work of most antenna testing tasks. I do have a second antenna analyzer which is the Funk FA-VA4  its a nice unit but because its menu-driven I find it to be a bit cumbersome.  With the MFJ unit, you select the band range with one knob and with the other knob spin to your desired frequency and then read the LED readout. 
Well back to the Endfed experiment and below are the results with the added 3 feet of wire.

Results without a counterpoise:
     Band              Freq               SWR

  1. 80.              4.000.             7.5
  2. 80.              3.500.             6.7
  3. 40.              7.001.            3.2
    40.              7.070.            3.3
    30.              10.100.          5.0
    30.              10.150.          5.0
    20.              14.001.          1.8
    20.              14.070.         1.7
    17.              18.068.         1.6
    17.              18.168.         1.6
    21.              21.001.         2.6
    21.              21.070.         2.6

Results with a counterpoise:
         Band              Freq           SWR

  1. 80.              4.000.            9.1
  2. 80.              3.500.            9.6            
  3. 40.              7.001.            4.4
    40.              7.070.            4.4
    30.             10.100.           5.0
    30.             10.150.           5.0
    20.              14.001.          2.4
    20.              14.070.          2.3
    17.             18.068.           2.0
    17.             18.168.           2.0
    21.             21.001.           2.6
    21.             21.070.           2.7
As you can see from the above results (not sure where the 1,2,3 numbers came from but I just can't seem to remove them without screwing up the chart) the counterpoise only made things worse again. The results without the counterpoise were decent on some bands (80m and 20m) but overall when the Endfed was at 41 feet it was not that different from 44 feet. The one deciding factor for going back to 41 feet was when at 44 the wire was directly connected to the tree. I was not able to add my bungee cord to allow the antenna to have some flex in it when the winds picked up and the tree started to sway. I was not able to add a bungee cord either as this made the antenna wire hang really low. 
bungee allowing for flex when 41 feet long. 
As you can see in the picture the bungee cord allows the tree to sway in the wind but not affect the antenna with the stress of stretching. The red parachute cord you see is there as a backup if the bungee snaps. It was a nice experiment trying the 44 foot but the results were not drastic enough for me to keep with the 44-foot length. The antenna is not back to 41 feet and my curiosity has been solved. 

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

LHS Episode #359: Backup Solutions Deep Dive

Welcome to Episode 359 of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this episode, the hosts take a deep dive into the world of real-time backups, archiving, replication, data storage, cloud services and more. Everyone should have a reasonable backup and disaster recovery solution and this episode hopes to provide several options for accomplishing that goal with open source software and hardware in mind. Thanks for listening and we hope you have a great week and good backups.

73 de The LHS Crew

Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].

Weekly Propagation Summary – 2020 Jul 27 16:10 UTC

Weekly Propagation Summary (2020 Jul 27 16:10 UTC)

Here is this week’s space weather and geophysical report, issued 2020 Jul 27 0132 UTC.

Highlights of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 20 – 26 July 2020

Solar activity was very low throughout the period. New Region 2767 (S21, L=200, class/area Hsx/120 on 26 Jul) rotated onto the disk on 21 Jul, but was quiet and stable. A slow-moving, partial halo CME was detected in coronagraph imagery in the NE quadrantat at about 19/1135 UTC. Subsequent model analysis indicated an Earth-directed component would likely become geoeffective on 24-25 Jul. No other CME activity was detected during the period.

No proton events were observed at geosynchronous orbit.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit was at normal to moderate levels throughout the period.

Geomagnetic field activity was at quiet levels 20-23 Jul. Field conditions reached unsettled to active levels on 24-25 Jul due to effects from the 19 Jul CME. A return to quiet conditions was observed on 26 Jul. Solar wind parameters reflected enhanced conditions on 24-25 Jul as a result of CME effects. Solar wind speeds increased from approximately 300 km/s to near 415 km/s. Total field peaked at 11 nT while the Bz component dropped south to -10 nT. Density levels increased to 28 particles/cc. Ambient solar wind parameters were present on 20-23 Jul and 26 Jul.

Forecast of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 27 July – 22 August 2020

Solar activity is expected to be very low throughout the outlook period.

No proton events are expected at geosynchronous orbit.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit is expected to be at normal to moderate levels thoughout the outlook period.

Geomagnetic field activity is expected to be quiet to unsettled on 28-29 Jul due to a negative polarity CH HSS. Quiet conditions are expected to prevail throughout the rest of the outlook period.

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Revamping the Endfed antenna

The new location for Endfed....Shingles are my next project
When we moved into our place last August I set up my Endfed as a temp setup and as with most things temp soon becomes long term. My excuse was I just had major house "things" on the go that required my attention. Over the winter the temporary support at one end of the Endfed was starting to show some major wear. I decided to stick with an Endfed antenna as with my lot size it was the best option for me.
The new spot for the antenna
 I was doing some reading on the internet regarding Endfed antennas and the ideal wire lengths. For the size of my lot, the length that was ideal for me was 41 feet. My plan was to remove the balun from the tree it was located in and mount it on my newly renovated in the pictures the shingles have not been done yet but that is my next project and the shed will be complete. The 41-foot Endfed antenna wire would extend back out to the tree. I guess you could say I just reversed the setup. This setup allowed me to lower the balun to about 6 feet off the ground and have the antenna slope in an upward direction. This setup would allow me to add a counterpoise to the Endfed. When the Balun was located in the tree it was about 25 feet off the ground and I was advised by Ultimax antenna the balun was too high off the ground for a counterpoise to work, I did try it without success. 
Splice making 34 to 41 feet
I first tried the antenna with the counterpoise and was not pleased with the results I removed the counterpoise and gained some better results on some bands. Below are the results with and without the counterpoise. 
Results without a counterpoise:
       Band Freq SWR
    80. 4.000. 7.5
    80. 3.500. 6.7
    40. 7.001. 3.2
    40. 7.070. 3.3
    30. 10.100. 5.0
    30. 10.150. 5.0
    20. 14.001. 1.8
    20. 14.070. 1.7
    17. 18.068. 1.6
    17. 18.168. 1.6
    21. 21.001. 2.6
    21. 21.070. 2.6

Results with a counterpoise:
         Band Freq SWR
    80. 4.000. 9.1
    80. 3.500. 9.6
    40. 7.001. 4.4
    40. 7.070. 4.4
    30. 10.100. 5.0
    30. 10.150. 5.0
    20. 14.001. 2.4
    20. 14.070. 2.3
    17. 18.068. 2.0
    17. 18.168. 2.0
    21. 21.001. 2.6
    21. 21.070. 2.7
Below is the SWR reading when the Endfed was 34 feet long and located with the Balun in the tree. 

Results without a counterpoise:
Band Freq SWR
    80. 4.000. 7.0
    80. 3.500. 8.1
    40. 7.001. 1.8
    40. 7.070. 1.8
    30. 10.100. 3.3
    30. 10.150. 3.3
    20. 14.001. 4.6
    20. 14.070. 4.6
    17. 18.068. 2.5
    17. 18.168. 2.5
    21. 21.001. 1.5
    21. 21.070. 1.5

Results with a counterpoise and the balun 25 feet in the tree:
Band Freq SWR
    80. 4.000. 6.5
    80. 3.500. 9.1
    40. 7.001. 5.2
    40. 7.070. 5.2
    30. 10.100. 2.2
    30. 10.150. 2.2
    20. 14.001. 4.9
    20. 14.070. 4.9
    17. 18.068. 2.7
    17. 18.168. 2.6
    21. 21.001. 1.6
    21. 21.070. 1.5

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Return to Dakota SOTA

In 2018, Joyce/K0JJW and I did a trip to the Black Hills area of South Dakota to do some SOTA activations:  Dakota SOTA Adventure.   We really enjoyed that part of South Dakota and figured we would be back. The Black Hills top out at ~7200 feet and the climbs are usually interesting but not very difficult. There are plenty of SOTA summits to choose from and the scenery is beautiful.

Bob/K0NR and Joyce/K0JJW standing in front of their RV (Winnebago Paseo). Photo: K0DAJ

This summer we found ourselves on a road trip returning to Colorado from Wisconsin, so we decided to swing by South Dakota for a couple of days. Joyce is getting close to achieving the coveted SOTA Mountain Goat award (1000 activator points), so we were looking to add to her activator score. I’m not saying we only did easy summits but we pretty much did easy summits.

Looking at the SOTA database, we scanned for summits with 6 points or higher that also had a significant number of activations. On this trip, we were driving our Class B RV (basically a big honkin’ van with RV gear in it). This limited our choice of SOTA summits to ones that can be accessed via reasonably good roads. We were fine with the typical gravel US Forest Service road in good condition but not anything worse.

We connected up with Don/K0DAJ who we met at a hamfest in Loveland, CO earlier this year. Don reviewed my list of potential summits and provided valuable feedback and additional summit suggestions. Don also alerted the local hams that might want to get on the air to work us. We use VHF/UHF exclusively for SOTA, so it is easy to get skunked if there isn’t anyone around. (I found out later that Gary/KT0A also passed along the word for us.)

The SOTA Summits

We identified seven summits that we wanted to activate, which would provide 56 new activator points. They ended up being clumped into three northern summits, around Deadwood, and four southern summits southwest of Rapid City. We camped at a USFS campground in between the two clumps, activating the northern three on the first day and the southern summits on the second day.

A map showing our seven SOTA summits in the Black Hills area.

Terry Peak (W0D/NW-002)

Terry Peak is a drive-up mountain with a short hike up to an observation platform.  We approached Terry Peak from the south on Terry Summit Road, off of Hwy 85/Hwy 14A. The Black Hills National Forest map is very helpful for finding all of these summits.

We discovered that Terry Peak is quite the tourist spot and several groups of people showed up while we were there.  It is also a big radio site with over a dozen towers and many more transmitters. When we parked, I noticed that the VHF/UHF mobile transceiver in the RV had both S meters pegged at full scale on all frequencies. Rut Roh, there is probably some RF around here. As usual, we had the Yaesu FT-90 transceiver which has a robust receiver in it, and it performed well. Still, I noticed that strong signals would abruptly drop down to being almost unreadable when some transmitter on the site turned on.

Bob/K0NR operating 2m FM on Terry Peak, using the Arrow 3-element Yagi antenna.

Mount Theodore Roosevelt (W0D/NW-023)

Mount Theodore Roosevelt turned out to be a pleasant surprise with a really good trail to the summit (0.4 miles one way, less than 200 feet elevation gain).

The trail as it just leaves the parking lot area.

Also, at the summit, there is a tower that was built in honor of President Roosevelt. This is a fun little hike with a monument at the summit.

We climbed the stairs leading to the top of the tower and operated from inside it. The tower reminds me of the many lighthouses we’ve been inside, but it’s not nearly as tall, and no light.

Bob/K0NR working 2m FM from inside the tower.

Unnamed Summit – 5110 (W0D/NW-038)

For a third summit, Don suggested an easy-to-access unnamed summit (5110), W0D/NW-038. We got there by driving south from Sturgis on Vanocker Canyon Road (26), then west on Galena Road to USFS 171.1. Driving a short distance north on 171.1 got us to an open area where we parked. Then it was just a bushwack up the hill (no trail), 0.3 miles one way with an elevation gain of 400 feet.

Location map of W0D/NW-038. The blue line is the hiking path that we took to the summit.

Day 2 was a repeat of summits that we did in 2018, so I won’t repeat all of that here: Odakota Mountain (W0D/BB-002), Bear Mountain (W0D/BB-029), Coolidge Mountain (W0D/BB-012) and Rankin Ridge (BB-089). Refer to the 2018 trip report for more info.

This time, Odakota Mountain was extra special because Don/K0DAJ joined us on the summit.

Dan/K0DAJ and Bob/K0NR at the parking spot for Odakota Mountain.

There is an actual summit marker for Odakota, so I had to get a photo of me standing there.

Bob/K0NR standing at the Odakota Mountain High Point marker.

Most of the contacts were on 146.52 MHz, a few on 446.0 MHz. Joyce’s log and my log are pretty much the same but I did work a few more stations. In summary, we had QSOs with these stations during the two days: AD0HL, K0DAJ, KB0QDG, KC0WC, KD0AYN, KF0AFX, KF0ARA, KF0XO, KF7ZQL, NC0K, W0LFB, W0NIL, W0SEB, W0SSB, W5LJM, W7LFB, WN6QJN and WS0V. Thank you to each and every one of you for getting on the air!

In Colorado, we pretty much work Colorado stations on VHF from the summits, so it was fun to contact other states on this trip. From Bear Mountain, we worked W0NIL and W0SSB in Chadron, NE, about 90 miles away.  Not too shabby. From Terry Peak, we worked Clem/KF7ZQL in Carlile, WY at a distance of 50 miles. Not as far, but another state in the log.

We caught AD0HL and KF0ARA on unnamed summit 6167 (W0D/BB-008) from both Odakota Mountain and Bear Mountain, for two Summit-to-Summit (S2S) contacts. We also got two S2S contacts with Don/K0DAJ:  Crooks Tower from Terry Peak and Terry Peak from Mount Theodore Roosevelt.  It was kind of an S2S festival!

Don/K0DAJ and Terry/AD0HL worked us on 6 of the 7 summits, so they were our most prolific chasers. Thanks, guys! Finally, special thanks to Don for the helpful advice and joining us to play radio in the Black Hills.

We were able to get our minimum 4 QSOs on each summit and usually had many more. This resulted in 56 activator points, so we are quite happy with that.  We have just sampled a few of the many SOTA summits in the Black Hills area, so I suspect that we will be back for more.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Return to Dakota SOTA appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

LHS Episode #358: The Weekender LIII

It's time once again for The Weekender. This is our bi-weekly departure into the world of amateur radio contests, open source conventions, special events, listener challenges, hedonism and just plain fun. Thanks for listening and, if you happen to get a chance, feel free to call us or e-mail and send us some feedback. Tell us how we're doing. We'd love to hear from you.

73 de The LHS Crew

Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].

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