The K7RA Solar Update
The average daily sunspot numbers this week were about the same as last week, while the average daily solar flux declined a little more than eight points to 128.9. Geomagnetic indicators were quiet. The average daily sunspot numbers of 95.3 for the week is considerably below the average for the previous 90 days, which was 120.8. Sunspot numbers for December 15-21 were 44, 60, 95, 103, 133, 139 and 93, with a mean of 95.3. The 10.7 cm flux was 124.2, 121, 119.6, 127.4, 128.2, 137.4 and 144.5, with a mean of 128.9. The estimated planetary A indices were 0, 0, 0, 1, 4, 3 and 3, with a mean of 1.6. The estimated mid-latitude A indices were 2, 2, 2, 3, 6, 5 and 5, with a mean of 3.6.
The solar flux has been climbing over the past week, after a low of 119.6 on December 17. The predicted flux values for the near term are 145 on December 23, 140 on December 24-27, 145 on December 28-30, then dropping suddenly to 120 on December 31-January 2, 125 on January 3-4, 128 on January 5-8, and then peaking at 130 on January 9-17. The predicted planetary A index is 5 on December 23 through January 4, 8 on January 5-6, and 5 on January 7-21. This is from NOAA and the U.S. Air Force Space Weather Operations. There is another opinion, of course: Geophysical Institute Prague predicts quiet conditions December 23, quiet to unsettled December 24, active conditions December 25, unsettled to active December 26, quiet to unsettled December 27 and quiet again on December 28-29.
Active conditions are quite different from an A index of 5, although the NOAA/USAF outlook is at least eight hours newer than the Prague prediction. But looking back 24 hours earlier to the December 21 prediction, USAF/NOAA has nothing different on December 25, although they do show an A index of 8 on December 29. You can check here for the latest prediction, which is updated daily after 2100.
The predicted maximum for the current sunspot cycle keeps increasing and being moved closer. There is no archive of these monthly (usually) announcements, but we’ve been tracking the changes here. Back on September 2, we reported the forecast for the peak had been revised from June-July 2013 at 69, to May 2013 at 70 (this is a smoothed, Geneva sunspot number, different than the higher scale used in this bulletin). On October 7, our report noted a change to 77 in April 2013; last month, it changed to 89 in May 2013, and the latest now predicts a maximum of 99 in February 2013.
We have more 10 meter reports. Al Kaiser, N1API, of Meriden, Connecticut said: “10 meters continues to impress! This morning (December 16) here on the East Coast, we had a long path opening into Asia. I managed to work BD7LMD at 1333 UTC, then followed by VR2XRT at 1355 and BD7IS at 1402 on SSB. There were also a number of other Chinese and Indian stations spotted on both CW and phone. This is the first time in my 33 years as a ham that I can remember hearing a long path opening into Asia on 10 meters, though I have heard some during the contests this year on 20 meters. I have had some long path openings to Australia and New Zealand on 10 meters this year though. VR2XRT was still calling and working North America via long path at 1515 UTC when I had to shut down to go out for an appointment. He was about 5x3 when I last heard him.”
Referring to last week’s bulletin, Pat Dyer, WA5IYX, of San Antonio, Texas wrote: “What KI4FW was hearing during the ARRL 10 meter Contest was likely F2 backscatter. Lacking any short E-s, it’s often the only way to work the closer in states. With my 100 W rig and 3-element antenna, I have to wait until no one else (on loud direct F2) is calling them to even have a chance for any contact via that mode. Residual scatter from the Geminid meteor shower can give almost the same effect at night during it on the high power stations. Somehow, I managed to win the low-power single-op phone STX certificate in the last two 10 meter contests. This year, even with more than twice as many QSOs as last year, I probably won’t this time -- conditions were likely ‘too good’ with many high scores. With all the interference, finding a spot to sustain any run with 100 W is a challenge (even up at 28.7-28.8 MHz). Also, some nasty RFI to me here for several hours on Sunday cut into my operating time. My only past instances of breaking 1000 QSOs in this occurred while I was still using paper logs -- the peak rates of 5 QSOs/minute are a bit exhausting doing it that way!
Jon Jones, N0JK, of Wichita, Kansas, made similar comments about backscatter: “The stations Rick was hearing from ‘locations nearby’ on 10 meters may have been propagated via F2 backscatter. They were probably kW stations with large antennas, though when conditions are good, 100 W and even less can work backscatter. Using F2 backscatter is a great way to work those ‘nearby’ sections inside your skip zone in the 10 meter contest. I heard K9CT in Illinois on 10 meter CW via F2 backscatter Sunday afternoon here in Kansas. But my 100 W and ‘raingutter’ antenna could not attract their attention. During the F2 opening on 6 meters on September 26, I heard F2 backscatter stations in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.”
Joe Schroeder, W9JUV, of Glenview, Illinois wrote: “10 meter long path has been phenomenal! On the morning of December 16 on10 meter CW, I worked four Chinese stations and VR2KF in Hong Kong between 1430 and 1530 UTC. They all had good signals, and BD7LMD hit S9 plus 10 dB on my meter. I suspect that KF4FW was hearing backscatter during the 10 meter contest. During previous sunspot peaks on 6 meters, we in Northern Illinois would often hear 5s and 0s, weak but readable, working Europeans. We couldn't hear right over us; it was very frustrating! It was backscatter for sure; turn the beam southwest and they'd be in the noise.”
Roland Anders, K3RA, of Elkridge, Maryland wrote on December 16: “Ten meters has been open on the East Coast via long path to Southeast Asia in the mornings, from just after sunrise until 1530 or later. This morning, I started out with VR2KF on 10 meter CW at 1244, then at 1319, I worked BD7BMD on 10 SSB, followed by BD7IS and Charlie, VR2XMT, in quick succession -- all long path. Charlie has been on for several mornings in a row on long path. Then, also on SSB, I worked Datta, VU2DSI, at 1329 and Sarla, VU2SWS, at 1341 -- both long path. At that point, I moved to 20 meters, and 9K2GS was booming in on the long path. At 1422, I went back to 10 to work BA7LO on the long path. Then to 17 meters for a while, then back to 10 CW to work BD7NWF at 1522 and BA7IO at 1524 on long path.
“Also, just about every evening I have been getting on 40 (CW mainly) to work Japanese and other Asian stations on long path (beaming SSE) and the Japanese are usually coming through from about 2130 UTC until a little after 2200. The opening is short, but I usually work anywhere from two to three, to a half-dozen Asian stations, mostly Japanese but some Siberian, Taiwanese, Chinese and Indonesian stations occasionally, and last night, XU7SSB in Cambodia. At approximately 0130, HS0ZIN and HS0ZJU in Thailand were quite good on 20 SSB short path. Around the same time, 4S7NE in Sri Lanka and several VUs -- including VU2PAI -- have been very strong on the short path on 40 meter CW.”
Tim Goeppinger, K6GEP, in Orange, California, wrote: “I had a chance to guest-op the ARRL 10 Meter Contest at N6WIN and I had a strange QSO. I was beaming Alaska at 340 degrees at 2130 on Sunday, and SM3PHM in Sweden came back to me! That is 10:30 PM local time in Sweden! Was this some kind of polar sneak-path?”
Tom Gallagher, N6RA, of Santa Barbara, California wrote on December 18: “Yesterday, I observed 10 meter long path for the first time in my 56 years on the air. I noticed on the DX Summit that the East Coast was reporting VR2XMT on the long path (28.495 SSB), so I thought I would listen to see if I could hear him out here (I was operating at the UC Santa Barbara radio club station). Indeed I could hear him (beaming short path). I turned the beam to South America and he got much louder (about S8 to S9), and he came back with one call. He gave me a 55 (I’m running a barefoot TS850 on this end). The time was 1605 on 17 December. At 1614, I worked VR2KF in Hong Kong (559 both ways) on 10 meter CW, also long path. I’ve been pondering what sort of propagation may have been involved. Perhaps F2 to the south, and then a link to TEP up to VR2? It was well before sunrise in VR2 (sunrise was 1500 here in Santa Barbara. The A and K indices were both 0, according to DX Summit. I’m also a 6 meter guy. I should have checked it, too. Oddly enough, VR2XMT is my only VR2 on 6 -- I worked him in November 2001, the weekend of the incredible opening into Asia.”
Oleh Kernytskyy, KD7WPJ, in Fremont, California, also had fun in the 10 meter contest and made this report: “I would like to report good propagation at Salt Lake City, Utah during the ARRL 10 Meter Contest. I was able to make 81 QSOs on CW, running only 5 W and an indoor dipole. This includes ZM2V, ZM1A and CE/K7CA.”
Adrian Pollock, VK4OX, in grid QG63kf worked VK3AMZ in grid QF22fe via meteor scatter SSB on 432.36 MHz on December 14, 2011 between 1700-1830 over a distance of 1457 km, or 905 miles. Bothe were running 400 W PEP output. VK4OX used two vertically stacked horizontally polarized 26-element Yagis, and VK3AMZ used a single 13-element Yagi.
Adrian writes: “We were using pre-recorded voice messages, similar in format to fsk441, stored in a Meteor Scatter program called Multikeyer. We were using 15 second periods. The Geminids Meteor shower was predicted to be maximum this morning. OH5IY and other programs predicted the best time for a QSO between QG63kf and QF22fe as being 1730 to 1830 on December 14. That was Thursday, December 15 between 0300-0430 my local time, or 0400-0530 Melbourne time. “We started at 1700 UTC. I got only a few pings in the first hour, but no useful information. He sent sound files recorded at both ends. I had been transmitting the same message, call signs only, for over one hour. My ripply transmit audio was caused by me having my monitor on and only appears on the recording, not on my actual transmission. At 1808 UTC, I received a beautiful burst with both call signs and a report. I changed my transmit message to mostly ‘Roger 27,’ because I know that Arie must have both call signs, otherwise he would not be sending a report. I heard nothing for about 20 minutes, then the best QSL I have ever received. This then, I believe, satisfied my requirements for a valid SSB QSO.”
Robert Miles, K9IL, of Martin, Tennessee wrote: “Most of my effort has been on 40 and 30 meters. They are the best I’ve heard in years. Using a vertical and 500 W, I’ve worked a bunch of Asian stations on 40 meters. My best has been 4S7. I recently worked VU, 9Y and DU. They all had 579 or better signals. All of these were countries I've never heard before on 40 or 30 meters.”
Sometimes you will see items in the media about possible mass chaos resulting from a large solar flare. Check out another view here.
I nearly neglected writing this bulletin because of a major distraction provided by the entire run of the old 73 Magazine appearing online. You can see them yourself here, complete with all the wild and wacky editorials, although that is just a personal opinion. Where else could you find musings about communications between UFOs, the world according to Wayne and all the other products of the restless, peripatetic imagination of the publisher? Great stuff (perhaps only in retrospect), or at the very least, provocative. Some of the most enjoyable (to me) are the early advertisements for 2 meter FM gear, accompanying articles promoting VHF FM and repeaters and earlier ads for miracle antennas, such as the Joystick. Or later in the ’70s, when the publisher wrote of a trip to California to check out an early microcomputer manufacturer, knocked on the door of the suburban Los Altos home (shown here) where he was directed by the woman of the house to the garage where he could find the two Steves at work. If you go back more than 40 years and look hard enough, you may even find a couple of articles of dubious technical quality, springing from the fevered teenaged imagination of yours truly.
All times listed are UTC, unless otherwise noted.
Amateur solar observer Tad Cook, K7RA, of Seattle, Washington, provides this weekly report on solar conditions and propagation. This report also is available via W1AW every Friday, and an abbreviated version appears each Thursday in The ARRL Letter. You can find a guide to articles and programs concerning propagation here. Check here and here for a detailed explanation of the numbers used in this bulletin. An archive of past propagation bulletins can be found here. You can find monthly propagation charts between four USA regions and 12 overseas locations here. Readers may contact the author via e-mail.