Attention Techs: 10 Meters Is Hot!
With solar flux numbers not seen since 2004, the higher HF bands have seen a surge in activity. The solar flux has been at least 100 since August 20. On September 10, it reached 116, rising to 121 the next day. It climbed steadily, reaching a peak of 190 on Saturday, September 24. While higher solar flux is exciting news for all hams, Technicians should definitely take note: The 10 meter band is the only HF band where Techs have phone privileges. “Techs can get use their voice privileges from 28.300-28.500 MHz,” explained W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q. “If you don’t have your own HF rig, find someone in your local radio club who does or call your Elmer. Without a doubt, you don’t want to miss this opening. Who knows how long it will last or when it will come back? So get on the air while you can and experience the magic of 10 meters.”
What is solar flux? The radiation from the Sun is measured at several different radio frequencies. One of these, 2800 MHz, or a wavelength of 10.7 cm, is most commonly used. The signal at this frequency is called the solar flux, and there is a rough relationship between this value and the number of sunspots. By measuring the solar flux, we can determine a general idea of the amount of radiation from the Sun that affects the ionosphere. Higher solar flux levels generally indicate that higher frequencies can propagate.
The solar flux hit its peak during the CQ WW RTTY Contest last weekend. “During the contest, both 10 and 15 meters were definitely hopping,” said ARRL News Editor S. Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA. “I’ve only been licensed since 2006, and I’ve all the older hams tell me about how wonderful 10 meters could be, but I never saw it myself until the contest. Wow! It was better than I ever imagined, and I’m told it will only get better. I’ve never seem more than a handful of contacts on 10 meters during a contest, but we had almost 1100 contacts on the band during the 48 hour contest. We worked Senegal, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe and Asia, and even Japan on 10 meters. I couldn’t believe how hot the band was!”
QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY, agreed. “I got on the radio for the CQ WW RTTY Contest and tuned to 20 meters out of habit. I was surprised at the lack of activity on 20, so I tuned up to 15 meters. So that’s where everyone was! I couldn’t believe the slew of activity on the higher bands.”
But it wasn’t only East Coast hams who experienced these spectacular conditions. Chip Margelli, K7JA, of Garden Grove, California, told the ARRL that “the high bands were a delight from out here on the West Coast. In the late afternoon and evening, 10 meters brought in loud stations from Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and South America. Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Saipan, and other juicy catches kept my rotator working fast. But the real highlight was the massive opening to Europe and Africa that I enjoyed on Sunday, when I had some time to operate. Not only was I able to work into Western Europe, such as Spain, Portugal, France and England, but ‘deeper’ Europeans were very loud, as well: Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, the Baltics, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were all thundering in. Weaker signals were coming in from European Russia, Ukraine and other places I haven’t heard for seven or eight years on 10 meters out here in California. I do not have an amplifier for 10 meters; I use 200 W and a homebrew 5-element Yagi about 60 feet high.”
Also on the West Coast, Greg Howe, KI6IUJ, of Laguna Hills, California, played around with the openings on 10 meters. “I decided to take full advantage of the conditions by doing some very low power QRP work. After working several European stations at a 1 W, I decided to really go QRP -- 25 mW, the same power-level of most remote-control garage door openers. I established contacts running about 1 kW with the T32C Christmas Island DXpedition station and EA8CEQ in the Canary Islands. With their okay, I then reduced my power-level down to 25 mW. You don’t need lots of power or a fancy antenna when 10 meters really opens up. Exercise a little patience, be persistent and go have some fun!”
“This is just the beginning of the fun and excitement that await us on 10 meters,” Margelli said, “but what a beginning it was.”
For the latest propagation news, please check out the K7RA Solar Update, published each Friday on the ARRL website.