Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

Just Get On The Air! (A Makeshift Temporary Dipole Shortwave Antenna)

It might not take as much antenna as you may think would be necessary to make two-way contacts on shortwave radio (as an amateur radio operator putting an HF transceiver on the air). However, often, makeshift antennae are effective enough to be viable–just look at all the contacts many amateur radio operators make with their low-power (QRP) rigs (transceivers) using short, helically-wound, mobile antenna sticks. If they can work magic with such inefficient antenna setups, surely your effort at an antenna would pay off to some degree. Right?

Of course, I want to make a proper dipole out of this example antenna. But, while I wait for the rest of the parts I need to complete this antenna project (pulleys and a ladder, and maybe a potato launcher), I’ve put this makeshift antenna on the air, with it just high enough so that I can enjoy some time on the shortwave bands.

With this antenna, I’ve made successful two-way voice and Morse code contacts (QSOs) with stations in Europe and across North America. I am able to tune it on the 60-, 40-, 30-, 20-, 15-, 17-, 12-, and 10-Meter bands. Reverse beacon detection picks up my Morse-code CW signals, especially on 40 meters (the band on which it is tuned physically).

The bottom line: just get something up in the air and start communicating. Improve things over time. You’ll have much fun that way.

73 de NW7US dit dit

So, You Want to Get into the Ham Radio Hobby

Come spend some time with me in this ride-along video blog episode, the first in a series that I am doing to help you begin your journey into the amateur radio hobby. This video is an experiment in that I am trying out this format as a type of “chat” in which I share my thoughts and experiences regarding the ham radio hobby, and how you might start out exploring the hobby.

Regarding the experiment: I have tried to edit the sound to reduce the road noise. Please comment on the noise level, and how well you can hear me talking about the topic. Should I ditch the ride-along format? Comments directly on the YouTube channel are better if you leave a comment on the actual video as displayed on my YouTube channel.


73 de NW7US


Arduino Projects for Amateur Radio with Glen Popiel – ETH072

Everything Ham Radio Podcast Logo - Arduino

Do you want to get back to the original roots of Amateur Radio? Maybe you are a new ham and you have a DIY side? Maybe you just want to try something new? There are so many things that you can do with an Arduino that cost only $4 or so! Anything from a morse code keyer to a 40m QRP CW Radio and a whole lot in between. You can even do things with an Arduino that has nothing to do with amateur radio but you will find a use for.

In this episode with talk with Glen Popiel, KW5GP the author of the ARRL published books, Arduino for Ham Radio and his new book that just came out, More Arduino for Ham Radio. He is also the author of the ham mesh networking book, High Speed Multimedia for Amateur Radio.

We had a great conversation and it made me literally go to the ARRL website and buy his new Arduino book while we were recording! Check out the show notes of this episode to listen and to get more information about what we talked about. There are also links to his books that you can go to to buy one for yourself.

Check out the show notes!

Get Ready: Month-long Special Event for SKCC, the 2016 K3Y Celebration

Are you ready for the annual, month-long special event by the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC)? The SKCC Group membership is free, and celebrates the longest tradition of amateur radio: Morse code. But, not just any Morse code. The manual creation of Morse code by “straight” keys means no electronic origin, only mechanical. This is a month-long event, during January 2016, modelled after the ARRL Straight Key Night.

Here’s a video that I made showing my activity as the control operator of the special event station, K3Y/0, during one of the many shifts during January (2015). K3Y is the special event callsign of the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC). The special event operates each January. I’ll be doing this again, this coming month, January of 2016.

K3Y, the Straight Key Century Club’s annual January celebration, commemorates the club’s founding in 2006 following the American Radio Relay League’s Straight Key Night. A small group of participants wanted to extend the fun of SKN throughout the year. The SKCC is the result.

For the first three years, the club’s founders used K1Y, K2A, and K3Y as the celebration’s special-event calls. But someone cleverly noticed that a 3 is nothing more than a backwards, curvaceous E. This “KEY” event has operated under the K3Y call ever since.

The on-air party is open to members and non-members alike. It runs from 0000 UTC Jan. 2 through 2359 UTC Jan. 31. It’s a great time to introduce others to the joys of hand-crafted Morse code using straight keys, bugs, and side swipers.

This year, January 2016, we’ll be fielding K3Y operators in each of the 10 US call areas, plus KH6, KL7 and KP4, along with specially scheduled stations in each of six IARU continental regions. Your QSOs with event operators in all these 19 areas will be tabulated in the Statistics section and can be confirmed with a K3Y QSL card and Sweep Certificate.

+ The SKCC website is at

+ The K3Y special event page is

73 de NW7US​

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What is the big deal with amateur radio? What is it that you hear? (Part 1)

Shortwave Radio - spy vs spy
Shortwave radio has been a source for great sci-fi plots, spy intrigue novels, movies, and so on, since radio first became a “thing.” But, what is the big deal, really? What is it that amateur radio operators listen to?

In this video, I share some of the types of signals one might hear on the high frequencies (also known as shortwave or HF bands). This is the first video in an on-going series introducing amateur radio to the interested hobbyist, prepper, and informed citizen.

I often am asked by preppers, makers, and other hobbyists, who’ve not yet been introduced to the world of amateur radio and shortwave radio: “Just what do you amateur radio operators hear, on the amateur radio shortwave bands?

To begin answering that question, I’ve taken a few moments on video, to share from my perspective, a bit about this shortwave radio thing:

Link to video: — please share with your non-ham friends.

From my shortwave website:

Shortwave Radio Listening — listen to the World on a radio, wherever you might be. Shortwave Radio is similar to the local AM Broadcast Band on Mediumwave (MW) that you can hear on a regular “AM Radio” receiver, except that shortwave signals travel globally, depending on the time of day, time of year, and space weather conditions.

The International Shortwave Broadcasters transmit their signals in various bands of shortwave radio spectrum, found in the 2.3 MHz to 30.0 MHz range. You might think that you need expensive equipment to receive these international broadcasts, but you don’t! Unlike new Satellite services, Shortwave Radio (which has been around since the beginning of the radio era) can work anywhere with very affordable radio equipment. All that you need to hear these signals from around the World is a radio which can receive frequencies in the shortwave bands. Such radios can be very affordable. Of course, you get what you pay for; if you find that this hobby sparks your interest, you might consider more advanced radio equipment. But you would be surprised by how much you can hear with entry-level shortwave receivers. (You’ll see some of these radios on this page).

You do not need a special antenna, though the better the antenna used, the better you can hear weaker stations. You can use the telescopic antenna found on many of the portable shortwave radios now available. However, for reception of more exotic international broadcasts, you should attach a length of wire to your radio’s antenna or antenna jack.

Check out books on radio…

I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Our Amazing Sun and HF Radio Signal Propagation

Space Weather. The Sun-Earth Connection. Ionospheric radio propagation. Solar storms. Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). Solar flares and radio blackouts. All of these topics are interrelated for the amateur radio operator, especially when the activity involves the shortwave, or high-frequency, radiowave spectrum.

Learning about space weather and radio signal propagation via the ionosphere aids you in gaining a competitive edge in radio DX contests. Want to forecast the radio propagation for the next weekend so you know whether or not you should attend to the Honey-do list, or declare a radio day?

In the last ten years, amazing technological advances have been made in heliophysics research and solar observation. These advances have catapulted the amateur radio hobbyist into a new era in which computer power and easy access to huge amounts of data assist in learning about, observing, and forecasting space weather and to gain an understanding of how space weather impacts shortwave radio propagation, aurora propagation, and so on.

I hope to start “blogging” here about space weather and the propagation of radio waves, as time allows. I hope this finds a place in your journey of exploring the Sun-Earth connection and the science of radio communication.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some pretty cool science. Even though the video material in this article are from 2010, they provide a view of our Sun with the stunning solar tsunami event:

On August 1, 2010, the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple plasma-filled filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more!

At approximately 0855 UTC on August 1, 2010, a C3.2 magnitude soft X-ray flare erupted from NOAA Active Sunspot Region 11092 (we typically shorten this by dropping the first digit: NOAA AR 1092).

At nearly the same time, a massive filament eruption occurred. Prior to the filament’s eruption, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) AIA instruments revealed an enormous plasma filament stretching across the sun’s northern hemisphere. When the solar shock wave triggered by the C3.2-class X-ray explosion plowed through this filament, it caused the filament to erupt, sending out a huge plasma cloud.

In this movie, taken by SDO AIA at several different Extreme Ultra Violet (EUV) wavelengths such as the 304- and 171-Angstrom wavelengths, a cooler shock wave can be seen emerging from the origin of the X-ray flare and sweeping across the Sun’s northern hemisphere into the filament field. The impact of this shock wave may propelled the filament into space.

This movie seems to support this analysis: Despite the approximately 400,000 kilometer distance between the flare and the filament eruption, they appear to erupt together. How can this be? Most likely they’re connected by long-range magnetic fields (remember: we cannot see these magnetic field lines unless there is plasma riding these fields).

In the following video clip, taken by SDO AIA at the 304-Angstrom wavelength, a cooler shock wave can be seen emerging from the origin of the X-ray flare and sweeping across the sun’s northern hemisphere into the filament field. The impact of this shock wave propelled the filament into space. This is in black and white because we’re capturing the EUV at the 304-Angstrom wavelength, which we cannot see. SDO does add artificial color to these images, but the raw footage is in this non-colorized view.

The followling video shows this event in the 171-Angstrom wavelength, and highlights more of the flare event:

The following related video shows the “resulting” shock wave several days later. Note that this did NOT result in anything more than a bit of aurora seen by folks living in high-latitude areas (like Norway, for instance).

This fourth video sequence (of the five in the first video shown in this article) shows a simulation model of real-time passage of the solar wind. In this segment, the plasma cloud that was ejected from this solar tsunami event is seen in the data and simulation, passing by Earth and impacting the magnetosphere. This results in the disturbance of the geomagnetic field, triggering aurora and ionospheric depressions that degrade shortwave radio wave propagation.

At about 2/3rd of the way through, UTC time stamp 1651 UTC, the shock wave hits the magnetosphere.

This is a simulation derived from satellite data of the interaction between the solar wind, the earth’s magnetosphere, and earth’s ionosphere. This triggered aurora on August 4, 2010, as the geomagnetic field became stormy (Kp was at or above 5).

While this is an amazing event, a complex series of eruptions involving most of the visible surface of the sun occurred, ejecting plasma toward the Earth, the energy that was transferred by the plasma mass that was ejected by the two eruptions (first, the slower-moving coronal mass ejection originating in the C-class X-ray flare at sunspot region 1092, and, second, the faster-moving plasma ejection originating in the filament eruption) was “moderate.” This event, especially in relationship with the Earth through the Sun-Earth connection, was rather low in energy. It did not result in any news-worthy events on Earth–no laptops were fried, no power grids failed, and the geomagnetic activity level was only moderate, with limited degradation observed on the shortwave radio spectrum.

This “Solar Tsunami” is actually categorized as a “Moreton wave”, the chromospheric signature of a large-scale solar coronal shock wave. As can be seen in this video, they are generated by solar flares. They are named for American astronomer, Gail Moreton, an observer at the Lockheed Solar Observatory in Burbank who spotted them in 1959. He discovered them in time-lapse photography of the chromosphere in the light of the Balmer alpha transition.

Moreton waves propagate at a speed of 250 to 1500 km/s (kilometers per second). A solar scientist, Yutaka Uchida, has interpreted Moreton waves as MHD fast-mode shock waves propagating in the corona. He links them to type II radio bursts, which are radio-wave discharges created when coronal mass ejections accelerate shocks.

I will be posting more of these kinds of posts, some of them explaining the interaction between space weather and the propagation of radio signals.

For live space weather and radio propagation, visit Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel:

The fourth video segment is used by written permission, granted to NW7US by NICT. The movie is [email protected], Japan. The rest of the video is courtesy of SDO/AIA and NASA. Music is courtesy of YouTube, from their free-to-use music library. Video copyright, 2015, by Tomas Hood / NW7US. All rights reserved.

Stunning Video of the Sun Over Five Years, by SDO

Watch this video on a large screen. (It is HD). Discuss. Share.

This video features stunning clips of the Sun, captured by SDO from each of the five years since SDO’s deployment in 2010. In this movie, watch giant clouds of solar material hurled out into space, the dance of giant loops hovering in the corona, and huge sunspots growing and shrinking on the Sun’s surface.

April 21, 2015 marks the five-year anniversary of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) First Light press conference, where NASA revealed the first images taken by the spacecraft. Since then, SDO has captured amazingly stunning super-high-definition images in multiple wavelengths, revealing new science, and captivating views.

February 11, 2015 marks five years in space for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which provides incredibly detailed images of the whole Sun 24 hours a day. February 11, 2010, was the day on which NASA launched an unprecedented solar observatory into space. The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) flew up on an Atlas V rocket, carrying instruments that scientists hoped would revolutionize observations of the Sun.

Capturing an image more than once per second, SDO has provided an unprecedentedly clear picture of how massive explosions on the Sun grow and erupt. The imagery is also captivating, allowing one to watch the constant ballet of solar material through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

The imagery in this “highlight reel” provide us with examples of the kind of data that SDO provides to scientists. By watching the sun in different wavelengths (and therefore different temperatures, each “seen” at a particular wavelength that is invisible to the unaided eye) scientists can watch how material courses through the corona. SDO captures images of the Sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. Different temperatures can, in turn, show specific structures on the Sun such as solar flares or coronal loops, and help reveal what causes eruptions on the Sun, what heats the Sun’s atmosphere up to 1,000 times hotter than its surface, and why the Sun’s magnetic fields are constantly on the move.

Coronal loops are streams of solar material traveling up and down looping magnetic field lines). Solar flares are bursts of light, energy and X-rays. They can occur by themselves or can be accompanied by what’s called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, in which a giant cloud of solar material erupts off the Sun, achieves escape velocity and heads off into space.

This movie shows examples of x-ray flares, coronal mass ejections, prominence eruptions when masses of solar material leap off the Sun, much like CMEs. The movie also shows sunspot groups on the solar surface. One of these sunspot groups, a magnetically strong and complex region appearing in mid-January 2014, was one of the largest in nine years as well as a torrent of intense solar flares. In this case, the Sun produced only flares and no CMEs, which, while not unheard of, is somewhat unusual for flares of that size. Scientists are looking at that data now to see if they can determine what circumstances might have led to flares eruptions alone.

Scientists study these images to better understand the complex electromagnetic system causing the constant movement on the sun, which can ultimately have an effect closer to Earth, too: Flares and another type of solar explosion called coronal mass ejections can sometimes disrupt technology in space as well as on Earth (disrupting shortwave communication, stressing power grids, and more). Additionally, studying our closest star is one way of learning about other stars in the galaxy.

Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. The program’s goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.

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