The K7RA Solar Update
Finally, some sunspot activity to report -- and not one of those phantom spots that appear one day and vanish the next. Sunspot group 1024 first emerged a week ago on July 3 with a daily sunspot number of 17 and the magnetic signature of a new Solar Cycle 24 spot. Over the next few days, it grew more rapidly and became larger than any sunspot group in the past two years. Today, July 10, it should pass over the Sun's western limb and disappear. Sunspot numbers for July 2-8 were 0, 17, 24, 26, 23, 21 and 18 with a mean of 18.4. The 10.7 cm flux was 66.5, 67.3, 71, 71.6, 68.9, 71.3 and 70.8 with a mean of 69.6. The estimated planetary A indices were 3, 5, 3, 6, 4, 5 and 6 with a mean of 4.6. The estimated mid-latitude A indices were 2, 3, 2, 4, 3, 3 and 3 with a mean of 2.9.
Look at this table and notice the sunspot area, in millionths of a solar hemisphere. You can see the size increased rapidly, backed off a bit on July 6, and then has increased continually since then, at least through July 9.
Check out a detailed daily progression of the sunspot area at. If you see no image, just refresh your browser, or hit the F5 key. You should see images at different times on July 3, from different observatories, gradually stepping through. The images look distinctive based on what part of the electromagnetic spectrum a particular observatory is imaging. Now change the end of the URL in the Web address window from date=20090703 to date=20090704 and hit Enter. You should see images from July 4. Keep stepping through subsequent dates and you will see the active region progress toward the Sun's western limb, which is to the right.
Last week's bulletin had a report from Brian Smith, W9IND, who said the W9VW 6 meter beacon in Indianapolis got a listener report from France. This week at 2227 UTC on July 6, it was copied S3 by CU2JT in the Azores (HM77). The beacon runs 8 W.
We've had some interesting comments in past bulletins from Dave Greer, N4KZ, of Franklin, Kentucky, mostly concerning 6 meters. Check bulletins 21 and 23 in 2005, 1 and 24 in 2006 and 32 and 33 in 2008. You'll find these here, then click on "Show older bulletins."
Dave shares more interesting comments with us in this bulletin: "All 6 meter operators know just how fickle the band can be -- particularly during a multi-hop E-skip opening. A station just a few miles from another might not hear the rare DX being worked by the other. But I had the opposite occur one recent evening when I worked California and Ireland within 5 minutes of one another. I don't recall ever experiencing multi-hop E-skip in two opposite directions before.
"It began at 2350 UTC on June 26 when I heard and called KR6Z in DM14 who had a strong signal here in north-central Kentucky, EM78. We chatted for 10 minutes and signed. My friend, Tim, N4GN, over in Louisville, 40 miles west of my Frankfort QTH, called and said to turn my beam toward Europe because he had just worked Ireland. I took his advice and put EI7IX, grid IO53, in my log at 0003 UTC with a SSB contact. He was 57 here. Then I tuned down the band and got on CW where I heard EI2IP in IO61 calling CQ. He came back and I had my second Irish station in the log and thus completed working from the West Coast of North America to Western Europe all in a 5 minute span. Amazing. I don't think I had ever experienced anything like that in 25 years of 6 meter operating.
"Others might disagree with me but it seems that the multi-hop E-skip has been quite consistent this year -- day after day after day. Of course, I'm at work from 8 AM to 5 PM and miss out on a lot of good stuff, but I have still managed to put three new entities in the log this summer: Sardinia, St Kitts and Grenada. Of course, some real good -- and potentially new ones -- got away, including D44TD, heard at my QTH for 2 minutes before fading out, OD5KU, who I could just barely hear about the noise at mid-morning on June 27 and an EA6 who never heard me frantically answering his CW CQ. But I have put a dozen EA8 stations in the log this summer, plus Italy, France and Spain, not to mention numerous Caribbean QSOs and a strong YV station. On a recent evening, K6MIO/KH6 was copied in Louisville by N4GN, but his signal never made it the extra 40 miles east to Frankfort.
"I have begun reading a bit more about these so-called noctilucent clouds and the role they might play in sporadic-E. Fascinating stuff. First observed after the huge Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883 in present-day Indonesia, it was originally thought they were caused by volcanic debris spewed into the upper atmosphere. Now the more common theory is the debris that helps the clouds form is dust from meteor showers. But I can't help but wonder, and speculate, if the Sarychev Peak volcanic eruption in Russia a couple weeks ago hasn't somehow contributed to this E-skip season by dumping more debris in the atmosphere -- enough anyway for people worldwide to report some very colorful sunsets recently. Just food for thought."
In other 6 meter news, Ted Saba, KN5O, of Covington, Louisiana (EM40), worked KL7RA, Richard Strand of Kenai, Alaska (BP40), on 6 meter CW on June 30 at 1850 UTC with 559 reports both ways. Their signals covered a distance of more than 3400 miles.
Jon Jones, N0JK, of Kansas, has a 6 meter report from late June. He reports excellent E-skip on June 23 1415-1700 UTC, 25 at 1408-1500 UTC and July 2 1417-1600 UTC, July 3 1400-1520 UTC and a big evening opening at 2225-0300 UTC. During each of those times, 5J0BV in San Andreas was heard working people, but Jon missed all these openings due to work. He writes, "June 26 was very good with Africa, South America and Europe in all at the same time to Kansas. Using a 2-element Yagi and 100 W on June 26, I worked EA8CQS (IL18) on 6 meter SSB at 2236 UTC, followed by 8R1DB (GJ06) at 2330 UTC, also on SSB. CT1HZE had a great CW signal for over an hour. I did not call Joe, CT1HZE, as have worked him before and he was looking for 6 and 7 call area stations. Seeing that on several days 5J0BV had Es propagation to the Midwest from 1400-1600 UTC, I planned to be ready for him the morning of July 4. I got off work at 1200 UTC (7 AM local time) and drove from Topeka back to Wichita. On the way is the portable site I use in EM18. I was set up by 1330 UTC. I initially heard HI3TEJ and some weak Florida stations. That seemed to be about it. I was about ready to tear down, but stuck with it as I felt between 1430-1500 UTC might be when 5J0BV would show. Sure enough, at 1420 UTC, faint CW appeared on 50.106. It was 5J0BV! In the log at 1427 UTC. Dennis faded out about 5 minutes later."
Russ Kendrick, K5RUS, of West Monroe, Louisiana, sent in a report of his recent 2 meter E-skip adventures: "I had just got home from work and turned on the rigs. I saw the E cloud on DX Sherlock, so I pointed the antennas to the northeast and turned on the 2 meter rig. I heard and worked K1WHS (FN43) at 2259 UTC. I began calling CQ then worked VE2DFO FN25 2305 UTC (first Canadian for me on 2 meters), then heard a loud thunder clap and some cloud to ground lightning close by. I took off my headset and unhooked everything but the 2 meter coax. Quickly, with one finger on the desk mic and in between the lightning strokes, I called CQ. At 2306 UTC, I worked VE2JWH (FN35) and then VE3EN (FN25) at 2313 UTC. I only heard the same guys until 2316 UTC, then nothing until 2333 UTC when I heard K1WHS again loud. I gave him a report, and then things got quiet except for stations near me calling to the northeast. I found VE3EN on 6 meters at 0028 UTC and had a QSO about 2 meters. He put our 2 meter QSO on YouTube. VE3EN was as loud to me as I am on his video, but I did not hear him say 73. That's how fast the band can change. On May 28, 2008 from 2330 UTC to the 29 at 0005 UTC, I made about 25 QSOs on 2 meters, 6 states, 6 grids in almost the exact same area and the same time, and worked K1WHS as well."
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 in The ARRL Letter. Check 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.