Posts Tagged ‘solar weather’

Summer – it’s finally here!

After a long, cold Sprinter (that’s what you get when Winter seems to last endlessly into Spring), Summer is finally here! Yay! And as promised, as of today, numbers are being assigned for the 2014 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

The Hunt will be held on Sunday August 10th this year – and right now, the best place to see the rules is at  http://w2lj.blogspot.com/p/njqrp-skeeter-hunt.html. I am trying to get the QSL.NET page updated with the new bonus points rules, but the server seems to be down right now.

Yes – bonus points this year for gathering enough letters from callsigns to spell out the word “SKEETER”. 100 extra points will be added to your score if you accomplish this feat. In any event, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is a grand time and folks seem to enjoy themselves a lot, so send me an email ([email protected]) and reserve your Skeeter number today.

Today was also the Raritan Valley Radio Club annual hamfest, which is held at Piscataway High School, in Piscataway, NJ.  The weather was absolutely beautiful – perfect for a hamfest!  It was sunny and it got up into the high 70s.  Very nice, but yet not exasperatingly hot. And as you can see from the two quick photos that I snapped with my phone, there was not a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, it was perfect sunburn weather. Reporting time for the hamfest workers was 5:00 AM and as I was driving to the hamfest site, I had realized I had forgotten to bring sunscreen.  I discovered the hard way that there are NOT a lot of places open at 5:00 AM where you can buy sunscreen!

There were plenty of vendors and lots of buyers. The ARRL had a presence with the appearance of Bill Hudzik W2UDT, our section Vice Director. (Psst!  It helps that he’s a club member!) We also had a VE Exam session, where three people earned their Technician licenses, and we also had one upgrade to General and one upgrade to Extra.

In the top photo, you can see the huge mast sticking up from an old broadcast van that Brian N2MPM had acquired. Running up the mast was a PAR END-FEDZ antenna that Alan W2AEW using to make QRP contacts.  If you follow this blog, you know that I have mentioned Alan’s YouTube videos in the past. He does an excellent job producing videos on how to use test equipment and other neat technical tutorials. If you haven’t subscribed to his YouTube channel, then you are cheating yourself. After you read this go over and subscribe – it’s definitely worth it.

Here’s a video he took of today’s festivities:


Pulling off a hamfest like this is a huge undertaking. Thanks to the direction of our two Hamfest Committee Chairmen, Drew W2OU and Rich W2PQ and all the members of the RVRC, this comes off flawlessly – year after year.

In between my duties of assisting with the parking and placement of the vendors, and being the lead in administering the VE session, I did get a chance to look at the various wares on the tables.  I purchased some BNC to PL259 adapters and some large alligator clips that we will to connect to batteries that we will be using next weekend during Field Day. Not a big spender much to the discontent of the vendors, but much to the delight of my wife.  😉

I’ve been up way too long and am making way too many typos – even more than I usually make, so it’s off to the sack for W2LJ. (Thank God for spellcheck.)

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!
Skeeter #12 for 2014

Too important to wait for tonight

As seen on QRP-L this morning, by Paul NA5N:

Solar flares and a heads up

Gang,
Ole Sol has awoken with three large flares in the past 18 hours, an M3, M6 and an X1.  There may be more to come.  The active solar region is in the center of the sun, looking right at us, meaning any CMEs (and future flares/CMEs) will most likely deliver a shock wave to planet Earth on Friday and/or Saturday with some geomagnetic storming.

But more exciting is how these flares have gushed waves of ionizing radiation into our ionosphere. The average solar flux for the past 90 days has been a count of 150.  Today’s flares increased the solar flux to *237*, though short lived as local sunset occurred not long after in North America with EU already in the dark.

However, the prediction for the next two days is a solar flux of 195.  This is about the highest it has been this solar cycle and sufficient for 10M openings in local daylight hours.  So for those of you snow bound, freezing your coax off and otherwise bored Wednesday in the Eastern U.S., turn on that rig during daylight hours and enjoy some very likely good conditions from 20-10M.  Daytime conditions should be very favorable until late Friday, when the shock wave from the X1 flare is expected to arrive.  The CME left the sun at about 1,100 km/sec – a pretty decent shock wave.  NOAA is predicting a moderate geomagnetic storm, but it could get worse, though short lived.

These favorable conditions apply to all areas, Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, etc. during daylight hours.  The proton count is also fairly high, meaning signals may be very attenuated in the polar latitudes and causing some fading (QSB) in the middle latitudes.  If the proton count remains high and the CMEs hit Friday night, it could mean some impressive northern lights, perhaps extending into the northern tier of U.S. states or northern EU (depending on when it hits).

If you’re new to ham radio or QRP, check out 15M and 10M next couple of days.  If those bands are open and the solar flux indeed comes in around 190-200, you should be able to easily work some nice DX with your 5 watts.  This is the first such opportunity I have seen in a long time.  Unfortunately, I will be at work tomorrow, installing some experimental 74 and 300 MHz receivers onto some VLA antennas.  Maybe I can sneak my 817 into one of the tool bags?

Let us know if you snag any good catches, or how conditions sound at your QTH. The way I figure it for right now … turning on your 100W coffee pot and 500W shack heater to get your 5W on the air will be worth it -hi.

GL to all.
72, Paul

Current solar and geophysical conditions are always here:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/today.html
or … http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SWN/index.html

Alerts and warning here:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/alerts/warnings_timeline.html

And, current solar flux values here:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpdir/latest/curind.txt
-1 means no data or the station is currently “in the dark”

Good news! Too bad I am stuck here at work!

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

Roller Coaster

Like a lot of you in other places, we’ve been on a bit of a temperature roller coaster lately.  Last weekend, after Christmas, it was up in the mid 50s (12C) here in New Jersey. This weekend, after New Year, we went as low as -3F (-19C) and our high for the day on Saturday was about 20F (-6C). That was just two days ago.

This morning, when I drove into work, it was 54F (12C).  Now, after lunch, it is 38F (3C) and the temperature continues to free fall.  By the time I leave to go home, I am sure that the temperature will be somewhere around the mid-20s (-4C).  And over the next 24 hours, we’re supposed to get some of the coldest weather we’ve had here in over 20 years.  The temperatures are expected to go below 0F (-17C) at night again, but this time with wind chills way lower than that. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be only somewhere around 11F (-11C).  But then, later towards the upcoming weekend, it’s supposed to warm up again to more like springtime temperatures.

Stop the roller coaster, I want to get off!  I am NOT a big fan of the cold, but I sure wish that it would already stay one way or the other for a while.  It’s winter time, so even though I don’t like it, I can deal with the cold for a bit.  This teasing of Spring, and then the plunge back into the deep freeze is just cruel.

On a radio note, I was looking at the solar conditions yesterday and I was licking my lips.  High SFI, a goodly number of sun spots and low A and K values. Having some free time for a change,  I got on the air, expecting to hear a lot, and for a while I thought ALL my antennas were on the fritz!  Nothing much heard yesterday, and nothing much worked.  What a let down.  At first I thought maybe everyone was working the ARRL RTTY Roundup, but even RTTY signals seemed sparse to me.  In a major RTTY contest, we often get interlopers all the way down to the lowest of the low part of the bands. Yesterday, all the RTTY stations that I heard seemed to be staying way above the .060, QRP Watering Hole areas.

Maybe all the RF is freezing from the cold air and is just dropping out of the sky.

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

Another great day!

On the HF bands – 10 Meters was great again during lunchtime and I had no problem working Serbia, Italy, Belarus and Germany.  All the QSOs were great; but I had two in particular that were gems.

The first came at lunchtime on the 10 Meter band.  After working some DX, I decided to go to the watering hole of 28.060 MHz.  There I heard a weak CQ – DF7IS, Klaus in Kandel, Germany.  Klaus was running 5 Watts from his Icom IC-703 to a sloper.  I just love 2X QRP QSOs, especially 2X QRP DX QSOs!  We gave each other 559 signals and copy was solid, even though QSB was a little trying at times.  But the KX3 pass band tuning really helped me notch Klaus’s signal and I had great copy throughout.

The second gem came after I got home.  With dinner done and a Harold walk yet to come, I decided to hit the KX3 in my basement shack before the sun set.  10 Meters was a bit disappointing.  I heard a station from Guinea- Bissau, but the pileup was intense, and his signal was dropping like a lead balloon. 10 Meters did not seem as promising as last evening, so at that point I decided to switch over to 15 Meters.

At 21.020 MHz, I heard JA1NUT calling CQ.  I knew that this was Shin, because my bud W3BBO just worked him a few days ago, and I have heard of him many times before. Shin has the reputation for being a top notch CW operator, a sort of Amateur Radio celebrity, a Ham’s Ham.  Nobody was answering him, so I threw out my call.  Shin came back to me, and I gave him a 589.  His signal was warbly, like it was coming over the pole.  I’ve heard polar flutter before, and this sounded exactly like that.

Shin was running 500 Watts to a 4 element Yagi, and said he was trying to study the effects of the CME.  I knew immediately what he was talking about.  I learned about yesterday’s CME from Fr. Z’s blog of all places.  We exchanged other pleasantries and when it was my turn, I told him I was using an Elecraft KX3 to a vertical.

That’s when I got “KX3 THATS 5W RIGHT?”

I answered “YES 5W QRP TO A VERTICAL”

Shin came back again “AMAZING 5W UR 549 BUT SOLID CPY ALL THE WAY. ENJOY UR MIGHTY 5W LARRY”.

Wow – how cool is that?  Another walking on air moment! Amateur radio doesn’t get too much better than this.

Before I close for the night, I leave you with a video that was mentioned on the CW Ops e-mail reflector. Can you imagine having an antenna farm like this?  I have passed K3LR’s aluminum ranch several times on the way to and from Dayton. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a grand view like this!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Almost done!

I have about 2/3rds of the 2013 Skeeter Hunt Soapbox comments Webpage composed.  Hopefully, I will finish tomorrow night and will then publish them (I’ll post the link here, of course!).  Thanks to all who submitted soapbox comments and especially for all the photos.  I only wish I was a better Web artist, so that I could give them the layout they truly deserve. Once the soapbox comments are published, I will begin printing and mailing certificates.

It is being said that we are now at the peak of sunspot Cycle 24.  Several articles have pointed to that fact. We may, or we may be not.  I am not an astronomer/astrophysicist, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you that from my own authority.

But I do know that 15 Meters has been good lately, and today’s lunch time QRP session was decent again.

In my limited amount of operating time, I worked the following stations:

HA3FTA
9A287R
DK3GI

The first two contacts were pretty much your average “bang bang” DX QSO exchanges of RSTs. The last QSO with Roland DK3GI was a little bit more in depth.  Roland who lives near Nuremberg, was pushing 200 Watts to a beam.  I also found out that it was rainy and cool where he was – it was only 15C (59F). Typical Autumn type weather.

On the other hand, we’re having a brief re-visit from Summer here in NJ. After some cool days and some downright chilly evenings the past few days, the heat and humidity have come back with a vengeance!  It was a sticky 85F (29C) here today, and it expected to go into the low 90s (32C) tomorrow.  But then clouds will come in Thursday and by the weekend, the temperature is supposed to struggle to reach 70F (21C) on Saturday and Sunday.

As Mark Twain once said this about the weather in New England:

“If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

The same holds true for New Jersey!

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

Another good lunchtime QRP session

Propagation numbers baffle me sometimes. Yesterday, when the numbers looked so good, I thought I was going to end up getting skunked. I did end up working Oleg UR3IFD, in the Ukraine, and I also had a very brief, QSB busted QSO with Paul WA9PWP. But other than those two very brief contacts, it was pretty grim. There wasn’t else much to be heard and my CQs on several bands went unanswered. Advance the clock 24 hours, to find the SSN is down to 35 and the SFI is only at 110. Not great numbers. But despite the numbers, I had a great outing.

I started out on 17 Meters with a brief QSO with Ted LZ1ND, who was calling CQ. Ted was a good 599+ here in New Jersey, and I got a 549 in return. Not a bad report, and Ted got all my basic information, so I was definitely copy-able in Bulgaria. And it looks like Ted is quite comfortable behind the dial of a QRP rig himself. Here’s an old photo I dug up of him on the Web, taken while he was participating in Bulgaria’s HF QRP Field Day.

After Ted, I switched on over to 20 Meters and called CQ. I was answered by Ron W5VYN, from Whitesboro, TX. Ron had a magnificent signal into New Jersey. The fact that he was using home brewed gear made it all the sweeter. Ron had asked me if he was generating any key clicks, and I was happy to be able to tell him that he had a perfect, solid and stable 9 in the “T” portion of RST. His home brew rig sounded just as good as any commercial rig out there. That was a nice QSO.

That was followed up by a “quickie” QSO with Greg N4KGL. Greg, who’s down in Florida, was using one of those new PAR ENDFEDZ Trail Friendly antennas, which was generating a nice 579 signal for him. It’s always nice chatting with Greg, and I wish I could have stayed on longer. But as always, time flies when you’re having fun, and it was time to break down and head on back to work.

So it just goes to show …. you can have a great QRP day, even when the solar conditions say, “Maybe not”.

Even so, I had to laugh on the way home from work.  As I was driving, I was listening to two Hams on a local 2 Meter repeater bemoan the current sunspot cycle.  One was complaining about “How you just can’t work any decent DX without at least a 500 Watt amplifier!”.  I almost lost it right there, I started chuckling so hard.

Lots of QRPers, including N8ZYA, K3WWP, W2LJ and many, many others have log books that attest to the direct opposite!

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

In a word

One word to describe the bands tonight – stinky! (I could have used a more colorful and apropos term, but I’ve sworn off swearing.)

Oh, I had my share of success. I worked St. Barthelemy again, but on 30 Meters this time, and I worked Morocco and Ecuador. But each was akin to pulling teeth.

These were not 599 QSOs, even though that’s the default DX exchange, it seems. Signals were weak, warbly, and almost hazy and indistinct, for lack of a better description.

I saw on the DX Cluster that a fellow NJ QRPer, Chris KQ2RP managed to snare an Algerian, 7T9A on 17 Meters. I tried for a while, also, but I couldn’t hear him well enough to be sure that he would be coming back to me.  And if you can’t hear him well enough to know that he’s answering you, then why even bother? I’d probably only get in the way of people who actually stood a chance, so I gave up the chase after a few tries.

Over the next 24 to 36 hours we’re supposed to get around 3 inches of rain from this first tropical storm of 2013. Maybe as our terrestrial weather deteriorates, the solar weather will improve. Here’s hoping, anyway!

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


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