“Last night must have set some record for 630m propagation (at least since I’ve been logging spots there).” – Ken, SWL/K9, in Indiana
There have been a lot of very strong nights this season and the underlying theme always seems to be excitement and disbelief that the band finds new ways to surprise us. Last night was one of those very surprising nights. It started with early reports coming from around North America. Ken, K5DNL / WG2XXM, was QRV again after a hiatus for antenna work and noted an early path to ZF1RC, at 2343z. This path has been opening before sunset here in the central US for about a week and while the distance from Texas and Oklahoma is not extremely far, there are a number of conditions that complicate the path.
Shortly after 0130z I noted that VE3OT’s CW beacon was very loud on 475 kHz and John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, in Vermont reported that the path to the Pacific Northwest and Larry, W7IUV / WH2XGP, was open. Moments later Larry reported two-way propagation to John in Vermont. This “dance” was repeated over and over again by several stations during the evening culminating in a CW QSO between VE7SL and VE3OT after a few nights of attempts and lost sleep.
The geomagnetic field was supposed to be at storm levels by now but instead it remains “actively” quiet with a few spikes but none exceeding quiet levels. The Bz has remained southerly and solar wind continues near 390 km/s.
Paul, 9H1BT, and Ottar, LA1TN, completed what is believed to be the first QRSS CW QSO on 630-meters between Malta and Norway. The details were disclosed in the ON4KST chat/logger but both stations sent the following details and screen shot. Congratulations to both stations!
As reported earlier, Steve, VE7SL, and Mitch, VE3OT, completed a nice and well deserved cross-country CW QSO. While both stations had to make a late night of it, a brief peak resulted in strong enough signals to yield the QSO. Mitch noted that when his alarm went off to head to the shack for the attempt, his wife said “good luck”. As Mitch stated when relating the story, “I guess it works!”. Steve provided the following detailed account of the QSO:
When Larry, W7IUV / WH2XGP, noted strong transcontinental conditions during the early evening he began calling CQ on 474.2 kHz + 1200 Hz using JT9. Larry’s signal was audible at my station at that moment but the band was really moving around. Somehow it remained stable enough to complete the QSO. Screen capture below:
Another very notable session was experienced by Phil, VE3CIQ, who was only QRV for the first time in the previous session. Phil was reported here at my station in Texas at -27 dB S/N operating only at 50 mW ERP from a 20-foot tall vertical antenna with “some” toploading, as reported by John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, who made the inquiry. We are still awaiting word on the configuration of his ground system. The take home message here is that this band does not require big hardware and big power when conditions are good. While every night won’t be great, the trend this season has yielded some pretty spectacular sessions and we are still a few years out from the solar minimum.
Note that Phil was reported by Roger, ZF1RC, during this session. That’s pretty good DX, even for those of us that have been QRV on 630-meters for a while. Phil’s achievement should be a testament to ANYONE who thinks that they don’t have room for antennas on these frequencies. You just have to want it!
As a final note on this epic success of Phil’s I want to remind readers that this is not the first time that small antenna have been pressed into service to bring success to an operator. As I am writing this report, F6CNI is operating with a 5 meter long “fishing pole” vertical and having very good success in Europe. Similarly I base loaded a number of antennas, junk really, in January 2014 and had significant success. The synopsis of those exploits can be found here. Don’t be afraid to try because chances are you will find some kind of success!
John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, reported a strong session from Vermont with more than 1000 WSPR reports from 46 unique stations and almost the entire country represented, as the path to Hawaii remains open. John notes that many western stations were reported very early at his station and W1CK and N7BYD were reporting his signal for the first time.
Ken, SWL/K9, in Indiana noted record propagation during this session, at least for as long as he has been reporting with 4 spots of Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV and 18 for Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR.
Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV, reports another strong session from Vancouver, Washington.
Hugh, M0DSZ, provided the following session report for his OPERA and WSPR operations on the RSGB “Blacksheep” reflector:
WSPR participation was very high, but not at record levels. 88 MF WSPR stations were observed on the WSPRnet activity page around 0200z. I’ve often wondered if the band is more open than we know and we are only realizing this now that we have persistently high band activity. Its sort of a spin off on the question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If you are an MF station that is normally seasonal in your operation, please consider staying with us through the Northern Hemisphere spring and summer. While the lengths and times of openings change, there is still propagation and our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing Winter and Fall.
Two new North American stations were observed during this session: W8ARE and WX9C. Also noted was Douglas, PU3VRW/SWL in Southern Brazil. Douglas was reporting the old WSPR frequency of 503.9 kHz but I have sent him an email to confirm his actual listening frequency. I believe this is a viable path and only time will tell if the tropical noise will allow a report to be made. Welcome aboard!
Regional and continental WSPR breakdowns follow:
There were no trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific reports during this session. UA0SNV was present for this WSPR session but no reports were found in the WSPR database.
Halldor, TF3HZ, reported two European stations during this session: DF2JP and PA3ABK/2.
Eden, ZF1EJ, and Roger, ZF1RC, had nice session with reports for WH2XCR and VE3CIQ, respectively. Roger noted in an email yesterday that he would begin listening 24-hours a day in hopes of observing an open daytime path to a North American stations. I hope other stations like Al, WI2XBV, will participate in this experiment as well because his location should make for a reasonable starting point due to the relatively close distance. If only Juan, K4LCD / WF2XXQ, were still QRV from Miami!
Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, experienced very strong propagation with reports from three Japanese stations in addition to WH2XCR in Hawaii and stations in the “lower-48” including a third night of reports for me, WG2XIQ, from KL7L, who was designated as receive-only during the session.
Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, also had a very strong session, with two-way reports with VK3ELV and Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, receptions of John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, in Vermont, and reports from Eden, ZF1EJ, John, VK2XGJ, JA1NQI-2, and JH3XCU in addition to much of the North American mainland.
Phil, VK3ELV, had the following report from late in the previous session:
Additional anecdotes, statistics, comments and information:
Ken, K5DNL / WG2XXM, reported that he decoded 9 unique WSPR stations during the session.
Jim, W5EST, presents the following commentary on spatial diversity on 630-meters after a discussion on the topic with Joe, NU6O / WI2XBQ:
JOE WI2XBQ COMMENTS ON 630M SPATIAL DIVERSITY RECEPTION
Joe WI2XBQ NU6O transmits 0.5 watts on 630m from Eureka, in far-northwestern coastal California. His 630m receptions include Merv, WH2XCR, on Molokai and Laurence, WE2XPQ near Anchorage. Joe’s transmissions are decoded not only in Hawaii and Alaska, but also by Eden ZF1EJ in the Cayman Islands and Doug WH2XZO in South Carolina.
On Feb. 5, I offered a “viewpoint” blog article on 630m JT9 diversity reception along a WG2XKA-W1VD baseline example. One or both of two well-matched RX stations could upload their JT9 decode screen every one minute to the web for viewing by each other. Each station operator would inexpensively gain SNR and acquire missed decodes. Internet delay would be negligible compared to that one minute.
Joe responded out his big science experience http://www.cpi.com/projects/vlbi.html . He suggests that 630m diversity can apply GPS timestamps to overcome varying Internet delays too. He pictures continual, automatic diversity signal correlation that goes beyond periodic human comparisons. Correlation offers even more effective SNR enhancement especially when both stations are receiving, but poorly. Joe says:
‘My concept…do RF demodulation locally and digitize the audio,..allow way more slop in syncing and decoding….3 bit sampling….does not impact SNR…much… speeds up the correlation process. With low bit rate / bit depth sampling…send real time data to a DSP…consider if JT9 is the best… CW…easier to process.’
A diversity system process flow summarizes Joe’s suggestion this way:
- Frequency lock to GPS. A rubidium standard can be economically obtained on eBay surplus from cell site upgrades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubidium_standard
- Demodulate RF locally at 2 or 3 RX stations, digitize audio locally, GPS timestamp the audio samples locally.
- Send the time-stamped audio samples over the internet.
- Reassemble the audio samples at a central server servicing several stations, or perhaps locally at each client. DSP-correlate the audio samples using the timestamps to organize the data relative to the GPS time. The correlation yields not only the TX-station-specific signal peak but also the TX-specific time delays between the RX stations.
- Send the correlation output to selected digimode decoder or to CW headphones/speaker.
- Evaluate different modes for best 630m performance. Regular CW or QRSS likely may outperform the others, but built-in digimode ECC (error-correcting code) may help a digimode do well too.
Joe concludes: “If multiple stations around the world recorded a night’s data and it could be synced up and decoded… There is a LOT of hidden information in all those signals… 3D images of the ionosphere for instance.” To his words let me only add an exclamation point!
Additions, corrections, clarifications, etc? Send me a message on the Contact page or directly to KB5NJD <at> gmail dot (com)!