Posts Tagged ‘band condx’

Review session

The last class of our Technician License course was held last night. We had what I guess you could call a review session.  Drew W2OU provided me with two practice exams, which I printed out and distributed to the class members.  We treated last night as the actual exam session. So not only did they get practice, but they also now know what to expect for next week.

After each exam was completed, we went over the tests together as a group.  It appears that on both exams, no one got more than six answers incorrect.  Since a passing grade allows for nine incorrect answers, it would appear that we are looking at a bunch of new Amateur Radio ops as of next Tuesday night.

To break things up a bit, we showed an Amateur Radio video in between the two exams. In all, I thought last night's session was exceptional. Our class members have proven to be eager, bright, inquisitive, and open to what we have been presenting to them.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with them, as well as with my two fellow instructors, Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU.  These two are amazing Amateur Radio ops and have an amazing amount of experience behind them.  The fact that Marv K2VHW is a retired broadcast engineer from WABC with a couple of Emmy Awards under his belt doesn't hurt, either!

I am looking forward to next week, and I just sent the group a final e-mail, detailing what to bring next week and basically telling how proud of them that we are. It's great to be able to help increase the ranks of Amateur Radio.  I also reminded them to relax. This is supposed to be fun, and besides, in the scheme of things, it's not like we're looking to cure cancer or end world hnger.

Oh, and by the way, I did work John K4BAI in Georgia, one of the 40 Meter Foxes last night.  I tried to work Kevin W9CF in Arizona, but I think the good props between NJ and AZ were over by the time I got home and wolfed down dinner. I see from his Fox log that Kevin worked some NJ stations, but that was while I was still in class.  By the time I was trying to work him, he was 229 - 339 at best and I just couldn't make myself be heard. There is nothing more frustrating than calling a station who is sending a CQ in the clear, only to have them resume calling CQ after you send your call!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Zombie Shuffle Recap – 2014

Tough work week and last night, I felt like a Zombie!

I joined the Zombie Shuffle, already in progress at about 0020 UTC (7:20 PM Local Time). I got on 20 Meters and worked four fellow Zombie Hunters in pretty rapid succession. I thought it was going to be a great night.

I was a tad mistaken.

From there, it got slow - real slow - shuffle slow - slower than shuffle slow.  This Zombie ended up doing a moon dance - looking like he was walking backwards. The perceived lack of participation or lack of good band conditions was a bit of a disappointment.

I stayed on for two hours and worked 13 stations - which somehow seemed appropriate. At that point, while the KX3 was merrily calling "CQ BOO" for me, I actually started to nod off for a few seconds. Being the conscientious, law abiding Amateur Radio operator that I am, I decided it was not a good thing for the Control Operator to fall asleep behind the key. So I accessed the local control point, pulled the big switch and made my way upstairs to get some much needed ZZZZZZZs.

Thanks to fellow Zombies WA5TCZ, KG9DW, KA5T, N5GW, N8RVE, W3KC, W1PID, W3ATB, AB9CA, N1ABS, VE3CBK, WA8REI and WB8WTU for the contacts - lotta good friends there, It was a pleasure to work you all! Five on 20 Meters, six on 40 Meters and two on 80 Meters (which was beautifully quiet without hardly any background QRN - oh if there had only been more Zombies there!).

By the way, I was one of the Elvis stations again this year - so if you worked me, I was worth extra pointage. And as always - special thanks to Paul NA5N and Jan N0QT for running another spectacularly fun event, my own tiredness notwithstanding!

Largest Sunspot Region (so far) in Sunspot Cycle 24

Look at this huge sunspot, the largest yet of Sunspot Cycle 24! It is about the same diameter as Jupiter! Notice how tiny Earth is, in comparison. Sunspots are regions on the Sun’s photosphere, formed by the “convection” of solar plasma deep inside the Sun, causing the twisting and shifting of magnetic fields. They look like spots on the photosphere because they are cooler than their surrounding solar material, giving them their dark, blemish-like appearance.

NOAA AR 2192

Close-up view of NOAA Active sunspot Region AR 12192 (short: 2192)

The sunspot is the largest since November 1990, and is larger than a monster sunspot that spawned a series of major solar flares over Halloween in 2003. AR 2192 was one of the biggest observed sunspots of all time, ranking 33rd largest of 32,908 active regions since 1874, according to NASA scientists C. Alex Young and Dean Pesnell.

Interestingly, this sunspot never released any major coronal mass ejection (CME), because the magnetic fields were too strong to let any significant plasma escape! However, this sunspot group unleashed a fair number of moderate to strong x-ray flares (see one of them in this video at < >). All told, AR 2192 popped off 26 M-class flares, and six X-class flares! Of course, during the last sunspot cycle, Cycle 23, there were many active sunspot regions unleashing flare after flare within hours of each other. That’s typical during the active phase of most sunspot cycles. This cycle, however, is one of the weakest on record, so this large sunspot with its many flares is exciting.

A Close-up of AR 2192

A Close-up of AR 2192

Each sunspot region gets a consecutive number assigned to it by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This sunspot region is NOAA AR (active region) Nr. 12192 (we often drop the first digit when speaking of a sunspot, so in this case, this region was often referred to as AR 2192).

One of the many x-ray flares originating from Active sunspot Region AR 2192 - this one seen in Extreme Ultraviolet at 131 Angstroms.

One of the many x-ray flares originating from Active sunspot Region AR 2192 – this one seen in Extreme Ultraviolet at 131 Angstroms.

This sunspot region increased the ionization of the ionosphere, creating excellent conditions on all of the high frequency spectrum (shortwave, or HF). Even ten meters was alive with world-wide propagation. And, the best news is that this provided an exciting playing field for the CQ WW SSB contest in late October, 2014.

This sunspot region has now rotated away, but may return on about 24 days.


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Good lunchtime DX session

When I left the house this morning for work, it was all of 52F (11C), which is very cool for New Jersey this time of year.  Also, I noticed on the drive in that many of the trees already have leaves that are turning yellow and orange, and many trees have started dropping their leaves. Again, that is something we are accustomed to seeing at the end of September, not August.

But the day heated up, and by lunchtime it was 84F (29C). Quite a warm up!  And fortunately, it wasn't only the air temperature that had gotten hot. 17 and 15 Meters were hopping and hot - well, maybe not as hot as a few months ago, but hotter than just a few weeks ago. The sunspot number had risen to 128 making conditions better than they have been in days. I'll take it!

I worked 9Y4/AI5P on Trinidad/Tobago, RI4CWC/3 in Russia and PI4DX in the Netherlands, all on 17 Meters.  The thought then occurred to me that if 17 Meters was working so well, then 15 Meters might be worth looking at.  It was, and after switching over, I worked OQ4U in Belgium and SP2GUB in Poland.  All the stations on both bands had excellent signal strengths and I got decent reports back, the lowest being 559.

I don't know how long these good band conditions will be able to maintain themselves. The way the Sun is throwing fits and starts, it may not be for that long.  But if you get a chance, get on the air and make hay while the opportunity presents itself!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


It’s evident that we are now on the down side of the peak of Cycle 24.  For the most part, I have had superb conditions for working DX during my lunch time QRP sessions for the past 17 months. DX has been plentiful, with good signals and decent RSTs on both ends. 17, 15 and sometimes even 12 Meters have been happy hunting grounds.  There have even been smatterings of openings on 10 Meters, which is not often the case during the 1700-1800 UTC weekday time frame.

I still hear DX signals on 17 Meters, but they’re not as strong or as plentiful as they were. 15 Meters is nowhere near as nice as it was just a few months ago.  It wasn’t so long ago that I was working three or four different DX stations during my lunch break – and it seemed like all areas of the world were open at the same time! I think that the days of working the world “with 5 Watts to a wet string” are just about over – as far as Cycle 24 is concerned, anyway.

With band conditions changing, it seems that lately, more and more of my lunch QSOs have been domestic – not that there’s anything wrong with that!  Today, I was saved from being shut out at lunchtime by Jim K4AHO, who answered my CQ on 20 Meters.  We had a nice chat that was not only 2X QRP, but was also 2X KX3.  Jim was using a dipole and I was using the Buddistick, of course.  QSB was a bit of a nuisance. At the fading’s worst, Jim was 459, and at best he was 579 (which he was for most of the QSO).

In addition to the declining ionospheric conditions, the weather here in New Jersey this Summer has been less “Summer-y” than I was looking forward to.  Take this morning for instance. When I woke up this morning, the thermometer was displaying an outdoor temperature of 52F (11C).  Very strange for August 18th.  That’s almost unheard of, any other year. On the whole, it’s been an average to dry Summer and the temperatures have been down and the humidity has been way down compared to the past three or four Summers.  The number of days that we have reached or have gone above 90F (32C), can be counted on both hands. There have not been many hazy, humid, hot days (The Dog Days of Summer) this year at all.

The weather people on TV have been saying that we are experiencing is an “average” Summer for this part of the country. The past few have been hotter than normal, so that’s why this one feels so strangly cool. After the Winter we had last year, I was really looking forward to the heat.  I guess there’s still time for us to get some hot days, but I saw on the website that the Northeast and the upper Midwest are supposed to experience a Polar Vortex in mid September, bringing along temperatures closer to what we might expect in mid to late November. Brrrrrr.

The other day, while walking my beagle Harold, I noticed the oak trees in the neighborhood are already shedding their acorns. That’s not a great sign as the trees did the same thing around this time last year and we had a terrible Winter.  Normally, the acorns don’t start falling until mid to late September around these parts.  The squirrels will have extra time to store up food for the Winter, and we’ll probably have another long, cold one.  Oh well, at least conditions on 160 and 80 Meters will probably be good. You always have to look for the silver lining and try not to think about the heating bill!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday, at this time, the bands were humming (relatively) with Skeeters, WES’ers, and WAE’ers, just to name a few. 24 hours later, during a later lunch break ……. not much of anything.  This is where I was picked up by RBN:

The one QSO that I did have was with HA3NU on 15 Meters. Other than that single contact, I spent most of my time calling CQ on 20, 17 and 15 Meters, interested to see where my signal would be picked up. Not as productive a lunch time QRP break as I would have hoped for.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

FOBB 2014

I ended up staying home, working from the shack and forgoing my bumblebee number. The weather was partly a factor as one minute it was sunny and five minutes later it looked like it was going to downpour.

The real issue was my back. I woke up this morning with a stiff lower back. Nothing incapacitating, but sore enough that hiking to my FOBB destination while carrying all my gear, and then setting up would have been no fun. Added to that was the fact that my sore back has also slowed me down somewhat, so if I would have had to dismantle the station in a hurry, it would have been a problem.

Even from home, on the good antennas, band conditions seemed to stink. I didn’t hear a lot of FOBB’ers, and those I did hear were pretty weak. Giving out a 559 was generous today. I managed to work 15 stations.

I sure hope band and weather conditions and my back are better for the Skeeter Hunt!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

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