The K7RA Solar Update
This edition of the Solar Update will be brief. Since ARRL Headquarters is closed on Thanksgiving Day and the day after, I hope to have another bulletin out Monday morning to catch up with the sunspot, solar flux and geomagnetic data information.
In last Friday's Solar Update, we reported sunspot numbers for November 12-18 as 11, 0, 0, 11, 12, 0 and 29. Since then, from November 19-24, they were 30, 31, 14, 13, 0 and 0 -- definitely nice conditions for the ARRL SSB Sweepstakes last weekend. This weekend, November 28-29, is the CQ Worldwide CW DX Contest. Although recent activity seems a good trend, we have no indications when sunspots will return.
With increasing sunspot activity, we have had reports of openings on 15 meters. Jack Emerson, W4TJE, of Fancy Gap, Virginia, says a friend in North Carolina copied the VR2B beacon (Hong Kong) at 21.15 MHz some mornings via long path. Jack said he began listening, and most of the time the signal is barely copyable. But on November 23 at 1210 UTC via long path, Jack said he was able to hear the signal, although with S1 signal strength, 519. He was about to leave for work, but decided to tune up the band and on 21.255 MHz at 1212 UTC, he found special event station VR2009EAG coming in very well at 5×5. Jack worked him with 100 W and swung another antenna around to the short path direction to make sure he was actually receiving the signal via long path propagation. The evening before -- local time on November 22 -- Jack heard more JA stations on 15 meters than he has ever heard during the new solar cycle. Jack worked UA0CM just after local sunset, with a 599 signal report.
Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, reports recent openings on 12 meters.
Jon Jones, N0JK, operated casually on a Sunday afternoon outing in the ARRL SSB Sweepstakes, and took along a 5 W transceiver and a CB mag-mount whip. He was on a trap clay shoot outing at a friend's farm. Jon added some wire to the whip to get it to load on 15 meters, and reports: "Figured it might be good enough to make a QSO or two. To my surprise, it really got out! Over the next hour and a half, I made 43 QSOs on 15 meters, including some real DX like WP3R, AL1G and KH7XS. A number of stations commented 'great QRP signal!' Even some short E-skip to New Mexico, Texas and Colorado. But the comments that impressed me the most were the ones who said 'thank you for getting on and helping out.' In Sweepstakes, weary contesters on Sunday afternoon digging for new calls really appreciate the casual operators getting on to give out some needed contacts." Jon's 43 contacts were with 20 sections.
Aki Akai, JQ2UOZ, of Nagoya, Japan, has also had good luck on 15 meters recently, running 500 mW into a dipole on his apartment balcony. You can watch a video showing his station and some contacts he made on November 22. He wrote to us last year about a personal challenge to earn DXCC during the solar cycle minimum using only 0.5 W. On November 15, he made 19 contacts with Czech and Slovak stations on 15 meters during the OK/OM DX Contest, and you can see his log of these contacts here.
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.