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Moonbounce for Everyone -- Courtesy of the Arecibo Radio Telescope!

04/07/2010

Sending Amateur Radio signals to the Moon and back has never been easy. After roundtrip journeys of nearly half a million miles, even the most powerful signals generated by hams are exquisitely weak on arrival. Because of the equipment and expertise necessary for successful "moonbounce" operating, this facet of Amateur Radio has been traditionally confined to a small audience. But for three days in April even hams with very modest stations will have the opportunity to experience the thrill of moonbounce, thanks to the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Joe Taylor, K1JT -- along with the Arecibo Observatory Radio Club, KP4AO -- will be on the air running 400 W to the telescope's 1000 foot antenna. Their scheduled times of operation are 1645-1930 on April 16, 1740-2020 on April 17 and 1840-2125 on April 18 (all times UTC). They will be using the call sign KP4AO and operating SSB, CW and the JT65B digital mode developed by Taylor. They will be transmitting at 432.045 MHz and listening for stations between 432.050 and 432.060 MHz.

Taylor says that it should be possible to hear the Arecibo moonbounce transmissions with little more than a handheld 5-element Yagi antenna and a radio with 70 cm SSB receive capability -- all the listener has to do is aim at the Moon! With a longer 15 dBi antenna and 100 W output, Taylor said he believes it will be possible for many hams to work KP4AO on CW.

Each session will start with a brief announcement and a CQ in SSB. SSB QSOs may continue for 30 minutes to an hour if the QSO rate remains high; the operators will then shift to CW. JT65B operations will probably occur on April 18.

The KP4AO crew is anticipating DXpedition-style pileups and will operate accordingly. To give all amateurs a fair chance at this rare opportunity, they are asking everyone to limit themselves to a single contact, regardless of mode. In other words, don't attempt to work KP4AO on every mode. Taylor also stated, "If we call "CQ QRP," we will listen for stations running 100 W or less to a single Yagi antenna. Please don't answer a QRP CQ if you are running more power or have a larger antenna."

Calling it "extremely fortunate" to have access to Arecibo -- the world's largest radio telescope -- for this Amateur Radio good-will event, Taylor said that they look forward to working as many stations as possible in the allotted time.

If you make contact, send your QSL -- along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope -- to the KP4AO QSL manager: Joseph Arcure, W3HNK, 115 Buck Run Rd, Lincoln University, PA 19352.



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