Two Auspicious Signs for a DX’er

Lately, there have been two auspicious signs pointing towards better HF conditions and the beginning of the Top Band Season (160M).  First, we are benefitting from a large cluster of fairly strong sunspots, something not seen for several years, that has enabled a huge increase in the number of stations on the upper HF bands, namely 10M, 12M, and 15M.  While long-haul paths (>7,500 miles or so) have not returned, there are strong signals from the Pacific, Europe, South America and Africa on the above-mentioned bands.  Here is a screen of GridTracker software – I use this to watch for needed grids or other stations that I’d like to try and work.  Here, I am watching for Jan Mayen Island, a rare entity northeast of Iceland.  I am hoping he comes on 20M FT8.  But as you can see from the band activity graph (red vertical bars) there is plenty of activity on 10M, 12M, 15M, 17M, 40M and of course 20M.

The second favorable activity is the start of the Top Band Season (October through March here in the northern Hemisphere).  With the increase in darkness, the D layer fades away and the absence of thunderstorm activity around the US yielding low noise levels, 160M comes to life.  As you will recall from some of my antenna presentations, antennas for the low bands can be problematic.  Luckily, I am able to erect a compromise inverted L over some radials with really good ground conditions, so my signal is around ‘average’.  My QTH is relatively quiet (all underground utilities), so I can hear relatively well on 160M with the inverted L.

FT8 has been my choice of late for DX’ing.  I often use QRP (less than 5 watts), but for 160M I need to use 100+ watts.  Often at sunset or sunrise the chance of snagging your DX increases:

Above is a FT8 screenshot (using the JTDX software package) from a morning session last week.  You will notice it took me several calls to finally contact the VK5 station and he was about the same signal strength as what I was to him.  Additionally, 3D2AG (Fiji) was also on at that time, unfortunately too weak for me to work.

During optimum conditions for Top Band (usually Jan and Feb), a modest station can usually work VK or ZLs fairly easily.  The key is using an antenna system that enables you to both hear the DX and to propagate a signal of sufficient strength to make the long-haul.

If you are interested in operating on 160M or would like to know more about low band DX’ing, drop me an email. 73, Rich, K3VAT

Learn Morse Code Online

We try to share educational opportunities when they come our way. Here’s an interesting one for youth and adults alike who are interested in learning Morse Code. This was sent to our club Secretary:

If there is an interest in learning Morse code – I’m emailing you to encourage your students (and if interested, YOU) to sign up for CW Academy. Over 5000 students have participated in CWA since 2015, and we have a youth-oriented program that groups young people with other students their own age. Quite a number of young (some as young as 9 years old) CW operators, both contesters and rag chewers, have graduated from youth CWA. Classes are held on-line (using SKYPE or Zoom), and we have students from all over the world participating. Continue reading “Learn Morse Code Online”

Program on Network Analyzers 9/17/20

At the regular SVARC club Zoom meeting on Thursday, September 17, 2020, at 7:30 pm, club member Roger Steyaert K7RXV made a presentation on the topic of network analyzers. These can be used to measure antenna or coax parameters such as SWR, impedance, and loss. They can also be used to characterize and tune filters. A network analyzer is a very useful tool to have if you are building and tuning homemade antennas, filters, or other RF circuits.

CLICK HERE to view or download Roger’s presentation in PDF format: “Antenna Analyzers/Vector Network Analyzers: Overview of antenna analyzers and inexpensive VNAs”

CLICK HERE to download Roger’s presentation in PowerPoint format.

Roger found this PDF that is a good explanation of SWR. He got permission from its author to share it with the club: “SWR – the persistent myth” by John Fielding ZS5JF. 

Thanks to John AE7YH for providing these “unofficial” links from Roger’s presentation:

Modeling Presentation

EZNEC Main Windowby Roger Steyaert K7RXV, SVARC meeting on Sept. 19, 2019

Roger K7RXV gave an excellent presentation on various modeling programs and how they can be used by amateur radio operators to measure and predict such things as circuit performance and antenna performance. Programs mentioned included Spice, SimSmith, and EZNEC. Continue reading “Modeling Presentation”

Flex 6400: Review After Trial Run

Flex 6400The beta team has been working with the Flex 6400 and Royce, W3IF, sent Gary and me an email with a short review that I would like to share with you SVARC members.

Mick Stutler, W8BE
Secretary / HF Team

Nate, W4NA, checked into my 10m AM net Sunday via the new clubhouse 6400.
AM audio sounded great along with a healthy signal.

Continue reading “Flex 6400: Review After Trial Run”