The K7RA Solar Update
No sunspot activity this week, and if no sunspot appears today, July 31, the average sunspot number for July will be 5.1; this is down from June's average of 6.6. The monthly average of the daily sunspot number, January-July 2009, is 2.8, 2.5, 0.8, 1.3, 4, 6.6 and 5.1. The three-month averages for October 2008-June 2009 were 4.5, 4.4, 3.6, 2.2, 2, 1.5, 2, 4.2 and 5.2. This takes into account all the daily sunspot numbers for September 2008-July 2009, and those numbers are for the center months of each of those three month moving average periods.
Sunspot numbers for July 23-29 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 and 0 with a mean of 0. The 10.7 cm flux was 67.8, 68.3, 69.1, 67.6, 68.4, 68.7 and 68.3 with a mean of 68.3. The estimated planetary A indices were 8, 6, 7, 3, 4, 4 and 2 with a mean of 4.9. The estimated mid-latitude A indices were 8, 5, 5, 1, 2, 3 and 2 with a mean of 3.7. Geophysical Institute Prague predicts unsettled conditions July 31, quiet to unsettled August 1, quiet August 2-4, quiet to unsettled August 5 and unsettled August 6. For this weekend, the planetary A index is predicted at 7, which is slightly more active than it has been lately. A solar wind from a coronal hole would be the cause. We are hoping for a return of a recent sunspot group, but only a weak sunspot was spotted from European observatories this morning (July 31).
Last week's bulletin mentioned W5THT and his question about volcanic ash spewing from Sarychev Peak and whether this could affect propagation if it were conductive. A note from Kaz Siwiak, KE4PT, of Coral Springs, Florida, pointed out that "the ash need not be conductive; it just needs to have dielectric parameters different from air/vacuum, which it does! Yes, definitely airborne ash will reflect radio waves!" Check out this photo of his operating position; click in the upper right corner of the page for an image of his simple antenna system. But beware if his "Secret Ham Message." I clicked on it and soon found myself trying to solve the cipher instead of writing the bulletin!
Terry Rogers, WA4BVY, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says he is really enjoying this solar cycle bottom. He writes: "A friend of mine just got back into ham radio, bewailing he picked a poor time with no sunspots. Not so! I got into ham radio in 1958 right when 6 meters was open most days, but I have never heard E-skip every other day and all the way to 6 meters multi-hop (I heard N5OMG comment that night he got a JA7 on 6, and I heard him on 6). I don't even have a 6 meter antenna (80/40/20 inverted vees up 20 feet -- I'm retired in an apartment), but I use the wire I have with good results out past 1500 miles. Ten meter E-skip comes down just one state away a lot of times. I never was able to call CQ on 6 meter CW before, and now I get several answers! I worked the first PSK31 ever for me on 6 the other night. Also, I came in here yesterday at 5:30 PM EDT about and found the strongest signal on 40 SSB which turned out to be EA7GAK, Javier, near the Strait of Gibraltar. Wow! Broad daylight 40 meter DX -- 40 meters is the new 20 meters! The path was only half-dark. Not only that, but I come in here in the evenings and talk SSB with Italy for 15 minutes or so using 100 W. Five W PSK31 to Italy is easy on 40 with low QRN. So if this is how 160/80/40 F layer and 10/6 E layer are with no sunspots, the Sun can keep its ole sunspots!"
Terry sent a recording of Javier's booming 40 meter signal, and he was indeed loud. On the recording, EA7GAK mentioned he is running a kilowatt and a shortened 4-element monoband 40 meter Yagi one-half wavelength up the tower, which no doubt helps.
Tomas Hood, NW7US, who writes the monthly Propagation column for CQ Magazine now offers a weekly podcast devoted to radio propagation. He has produced two so far, for July 18 and 25, so the next one should be on Saturday, August 1.
World Radio magazine ceased publishing a hard copy of their monthly journal, but they are still publishing by posting PDF documents on the Web. Best of all, Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, still writes his monthly propagation column for them. Go here and click on "Back Issues" in the left column. You can download the entire content of all 2009 issues by right-clicking on the link below each month then saving to your drive. Carl's column is always in the higher numbered pages, so if you want to get to his column quickly, just download the last section only. Carl is very knowledgeable about propagation and his articles are always interesting and informative. Check out Carl's Web site to read more of his writing.
It seems that great sporadic-E propagation continues. Mike Schaffer, KA3JAW, in Tampa, Florida, was searching for television DX last Saturday, July 25 when he received HIJB in the Dominican Republic on channel 2 with fair video quality and moderate audio during the 1230 UTC hour. At 1330 UTC, he received TGV on channel 3 from Guatemala, and at 1400 UTC on channel 4 he received a station in Managua, Nicaragua. He notes that the previous weekend had poorer sporadic-E propagation.
Several days earlier, Wednesday, July 22 around 11 PM Central Time (0400 UTC Thursday), Trent Fleming, N4DTF, of Germantown, Tennessee (EM55), worked 14 stations in Northern Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin on 6 meters. The grid squares were EN52, EN53, EN25, EN34 and EN62, and all signals were at least S7. The first QSO was with KK9H, then a pileup ensued; the last worked was KN0V. After signing with KN0V, the band dropped out completely. Trent runs 50 W into a horizontal loop at 25 feet.
Dale Drake, AA1QD, of Dover, New Hampshire (FN43mf), noted in last week's bulletin the story about working JA7QVI on 6 meters; he said they worked each other on 6 meter CW on July 8 at 2304 UTC. Dale said it was quite a thrill, and noted that JA7QVI is running stacked Yagis on 6, eight over eight. Dale says: "Overall, the 6 meter E-skip season here started out a bit slower and later than usual in May, but it really picked up in June and July. I ended up working 12 new countries for me on 6 so far this season. I'm now up to 86 worked in my quest for 6 meter DXCC."
Victor Androsov, VA2WDQ, worked quite a bit of sporadic-E on 2 meters on Wednesday, July 29. He uses a 7 element Yagi that he designed; it is on a 2 wavelength boom. He wrote: "That was the biggest 2 meter Es I've ever heard since I was licensed as VA2WDQ in 2003! I found 144 MHz opened to W0 at around 1800 EST (2200 UTC). The first station I worked at 18:13 EST was N0IRS from EM29, coming with a strong and clear signal. The last one QSO with WR0F (EM29), logged at 19:48. I heard other stations I've worked before until 2000. That was a great opening! Sometimes MUF dropped down and the 2 meter band got quiet. But after 10-15 minutes, W0, W9, W5 jumped up from noise again. That Es opening I worked 17 stations: N0IRS, KC0CFB, WB0NQD, W9RM, KA9CFD, K9AKS, N0PB, N0MST, W6ZI, KD5ZVE, K0CIY, N4LI, N0DIS, W5MRB, KM0T, K5OMC and WR0F in these grid squares: EM25, EM26, EM27,EM29,EM39, EM44, EM55, EN10, EN13, EN22, EN40, EN41 and EN52."
Larry Lambert, N0LL, of Smith Center, Kansas, had his own adventure on 2 meters on the same evening. He wrote: "With all the sporadic-E this summer, this happened last evening (July 29) at 2343 UTC. K1WHS in Maine was worked on 2 meters for state #48 on 2 meters. All states were non-EME and non-digital. My state #47 was W1AIM in Vermont during the 1998 Leonids meteor shower, so #48 has been 11 years in the coming. I've been on 2 meter weak signal for 33 years. Kevin, W9GKA, says I am #13 to do all contiguous 48 states on 2 meters. One has to live in the Midwest to do it. My 2 meter signal was heard in Maine in July 17, 1980, and that is as close as it got till last evening. I've waited a long time for another cloud to be in the correct location, as this was near the theoretical 1500 mile limit for one hop of sporadic-E on 2 meters. I also worked seven others in New England -- it was quite a thrill!"
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.