Sunday, October 25, 2015

Improved propagation

The shortwave bands are opening up again after months of discouraging reception. Since the spring of this year, the sun's radiation blocked, rather than helped, the radio waves.
It was frustrating for me because I only found out about it when I couldn't make any contacts on 20 meters. I had never been able to transmit SSTV on 14.230 MHz without getting a response! I realized that I could barely hear anything but static on that frequency, and I checked the propagation report. A very good one can be found here. Sure enough, all the bands were labeled, "Poor." I had never seen this happen before.

Several weeks later, I bought an SDRPlay. Then I set up a hanging dipole from a top-floor window. After more mediocre reception, I began to doubt the quality of my antenna and even my radio. I gave up monitoring the bands until things got better.

Things got better just under a week ago. Now the bands are open and this morning at 8 AM I got up, strung up an antenna, and turned on my radio. Australia comes in very well in the mornings. It's no surprise, considering that when the sun is rising on the east coast, the Pacific is dark. What was surprising was that the 15 meter (21 MHz) band was full. I heard what sounded like an Indian voice saying something about Germany.

I made an SSTV contact on 20 meters today. He got my callsign, but I couldn't read his. This weekend was the CQWW DX SSB contest, so the bands were full. Every 3 khz I could hear someone talking! Thankfully, 14.230 MHz was clear enough for me to get my picture out.

I first received a picture of a street sign that said, "Delaware." This was sent (probably to me) twice. Another picture looked like it contained my callsign and said, "Darn Contesters." Then I got a picture of Yoda labeled, "May the force be with you." By now I could just make out my callsign at the top. These pictures had horizontal bands of snow whenever contesters talked over the transmission.

I also heard what sounded like DRM on 14.233 MHz. The ham radio version of DRM is used for sending pictures.

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