The K7RA Solar Update
This week's Solar Update is written by Steve Nichols, G0KYA, of the RSGB's Propagation Studies Committee in the English county of Norfolk. Tad Cook, K7RA, is out of town and will return next week for the November 6 bulletin.
Well, what a week it has been. The solar flux hit 82.3 on Tuesday, the highest recording yet since the first-observed "new cycle sunspot" in January 2008, the "official" visual start of Solar Cycle 24. Even as I write this, the flux is still at 80, thanks to sunspot region 1029, so let's hope that it is a sign of better things to come. Sunspot numbers for October 22-28 were 0, 30, 21, 28, 29, 29 and 26 with a mean of 23.3. The 10.7 cm flux was 71.6, 72.9, 75.6, 75.5, 81.3, 81.5 and 79.9 with a mean of 76.9. The estimated planetary A indices were 14, 8, 8, 5, 3, 3 and 2 with a mean of 6.1. The estimated mid-latitude A indices were 12, 7, 5, 3, 3, 2 and 3 with a mean of 5. The region (1029) produced several B-class solar flare events and a single C2.2 class flare on the 28th, but luckily CQWW SSB was unaffected for the most part.
NASA's STEREO "behind" spacecraft is not showing any new spots coming around the solar rim, but we live in hope. I was lucky enough to record a podcast with Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, at the RSGB's Convention in the UK where he talked about Solar Cycle 24 and the possible effect of galactic cosmic rays on top band propagation.
In the UK, a combination of Sporadic-E and F2 layer propagation made 10 meters a "must have" band for contesters last weekend. The 28 MHz band was full of European stations and I personally worked more than 25 countries in two hours of casual operation. Longer DX included 4X (Israel) and ZS9 (South Africa), with signal strengths peaking at 59, even with very simple antennas. I can't remember the last time 10 meters was so active, although it was interesting to note that on Monday, the band was completely clear. It just shows that you should call CQ once in a while.
Tim Goeppinger, K6GEP, or Orange California, reports that he and other Southern California amateurs worked YO4ATW on 10 meters around 1930 UTC on October 25 during CQWW SSB. No other European countries were heard on the band at that time. Only 100 W and modest tri-band Yagis were used at both ends.
Marcel Aleca, YO4ATW, in Romania, was a single band entry on 10 meters; he made more than 340 contacts, including some in South America. On another day this week, he worked some Brazilians around 1800 UTC. Multi-hop Es or F layer? Let's hope it is a pointer toward better things to come.
Al Kozakiewicz, AB2ZY, of Niskayuna, New York, also found 15 meters wide open. From the Adirondacks in Upper New York State with a single ground-mounted Butternut HF6V vertical with lots of radials, an ICOM 756 Pro III transceiver and an old Yaesu FL-2100B amplifier, he was hearing Western European stations well after their sundown.
At the other end of the spectrum, 80 meters was also a great band, with many US and Canadian stations giving novice European operators their first trans-Atlantic QSOs around 3.8 MHz. Tim Duffy's, K3LR, multi-multi station in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, was still audible for more than one hour after sunrise in the UK. Let's hope we get similar conditions for CQWW CW in November.
K7RA -- and normality -- will be back next week.
73 de Steve G0KYA
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.