Category Archives: Space Weather

Radio Waves: NRAO Turns Scope System Into Planetary Radar, WBCQ Seeks Engineers, Deep Space Network Upgrades, and 2021 Propagation Summit

GBT-VLBA radar image of the region where Apollo 15 landed in 1971. The snake-like feature is Hadley Rille, a remnant of ancient volcanic activity, probably a collapsed lava tube. The crater at top, alongside the rille, is called Hadley C and is about 6 kilometers in diameter. This image shows objects as small as 5 meters across.
(Credit: NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/NSF/AUI)

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


Successful Test Paves Way for New Planetary Radar (NRAO)

The National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory (GBO) and National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Raytheon Intelligence & Space conducted a test in November to prove that a new radio telescope system can capture high-resolution images in near-Earth space.

GBO’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia — the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope — was outfitted with a new transmitter developed by Raytheon Intelligence & Space, allowing it to transmit a radar signal into space. The NRAO’s continent-wide Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) received the reflected signal and produced images of the Apollo 15 moon landing site.

The proof-of-concept test, culminating a two-year effort, paves the way for designing a more powerful transmitter for the telescope. More power will allow enhanced detection and imaging of small objects passing by the Earth, moons orbiting around other planets and other debris in the Solar System.

The technology was developed as part of a cooperative research and development agreement between NRAO, GBO, and Raytheon.

“This project opens a whole new range of capabilities for both NRAO and GBO,” said Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and vice president for Radio Astronomy at Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI). “We’ve participated before in important radar studies of the Solar System, but turning the GBT into a steerable planetary radar transmitter will greatly expand our ability to pursue intriguing new lines of research.”

Using the information collected with this latest test, the participants will finalize a plan to develop a 500-kilowatt, high-power radar system that can image objects in the Solar System with unprecedented detail and sensitivity. The increased performance also will allow astronomers to use radar signals as far away as the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, increasing our understanding of the Solar System.

“The planned system will be a leap forward in radar science, allowing access to never before seen features of the Solar System from right here on Earth,” said Karen O’Neil, the Green Bank Observatory site director.

“Raytheon’s radar techniques could ultimately improve our ability to explore the Solar System,” said Steven Wilkinson, Principal Engineering Fellow at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “Working with the astronomy community allows us to apply decades of radar know-how to a project that provides high-resolution images of near-Earth objects.”

“We are excited to be partnering with Raytheon and applying their radar expertise to transform our observatories’ telescopes in new science areas,” said AUI President Adam Cohen.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Green Bank Observatory are facilities of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.[]

WBCQ: Radio transmitter engineers wanted

WBCQ Radio is seeking radio transmitter engineers to work at our 500KW shortwave station. Come to northern Maine and get away from it all. Nice working environment, good pay, great people, fun work with BIG transmitting and antenna equipment. Contact Allan and Angela Weiner at 207-538-9180. Please send resumes to wbcq@wbcq.com.

Deep Space Network upgrades and new antennas increase vital communication capabilities (NASA)

NASA’s Deep Space Network, commonly referred to as the DSN, has welcomed a new dish, Deep Space Station 56, to its family of powerful ground listening stations around the world.

The now-operational 34-meter antenna joins the network’s Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex located 60 kilometers west of Madrid, Spain while other dishes within the network undergo critical upgrades.

The new dish is part of an ongoing series of enhancements to the DSN, which traces its roots back to January 1958 when the U.S. Army’s Jet Propulsion Lab was tasked with standing up a series of communications stations in Nigeria, Singapore, and the U.S. state of California to support orbital telemetry operations for the Explorer 1 mission.

This precursor to the Deep Space Network was transferred to NASA along with the Jet Propulsion Lab on 3 December 1958. The DSN was then formally commissioned by the U.S. space agency as a way to consolidate the pending deep space communication needs through centralized locations to avoid each mission having to create its own ground listening station(s).

The three Deep Space Network ground locations are spaced roughly 120 degrees from each other in Canberra, Australia; Goldstone, California; and Madrid, Spain. The location of the three facilities ensures deep space missions with a line of sight to Earth can communicate with at least one of the locations at any time.

Updates throughout the decades have increased the network’s capabilities, most notably for the two Voyager probes that continue to operate and send back science data having both long-passed out of the heliosphere and into the interstellar medium.

The network, nonetheless, is showing its age, with upgrades and refurbishments needed to ensure continuous operations. Part of this initiative is the recent addition of the new dish, Deep Space Station 56 (DSS-56), at the Madrid complex.

“After the lengthy process of commissioning, the DSN’s most-capable 34-meter antenna is now talking with our spacecraft,” said Bradford Arnold, DSN project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[]

2021 Propagation Summit Session Recordings Available (ARRL News)

YouTube recordings and PDF files from the 2021 Propagation Summit hosted on January 23 by Contest University are available. More than 1,000 logged in for the sessions. Each presentation begins approximately on the hour. You can advance the video to the presentation you wish to view.

  • 11 AM – “Update on the Personal Space Weather Station Project and HamSCI Activities for 2021” by Dr. Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF
  • 12 Noon – “Solar Cycle 25 Predictions and Progress” by Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA
  • 1 PM – “Maximizing Performance of HF Antennas with Irregular Terrain” by Jim Breakall, WA3FET
  • 2 PM – “HF Propagation: What to Expect During the Rising Years of Solar Cycle 25,” by Frank Donovan, W3LPL.

Slides decks are available for each presentation in PDF format: FrissellLuetzelschwabBreakall, and Donovan. []


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New Space Weather from VLF Communications

Image Credit: NASA

As an amateur astronomer & SWL enthusiast, I always find it interesting when both disciplines overlap.  I came across an article on the Internet posted by sciencealert.com of such an overlap.

The Earth is surrounded by two radiation belts (Van Allen Belts).  But something strange has been discovered.  After NASA launched a space probe in 2017 – and after analyzing collected data – the two Van Allen belts have been pushed farther away from Earth by a third “area”.  That area is a “man-made barrier” created by Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio communications.

Scientists postulate this new man-made VLF barrier, a form of man-made Space Weather, has pushed the two radiation belts farther from Earth.  And as such, this has created a “protective bubble” from potentially dangerous solar discharges and their radiation streams.

For those interested, you can read the full article here..

Guest post by Troy Riedel

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Solar Cycle 25: Sunspot Cycle “Could Be One Of The Strongest On Record”

(Source: SpaceRef via Eric McFadden)

In direct contradiction to the official forecast, a team of scientists led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is predicting that the Sunspot Cycle that started this fall could be one of the strongest since record-keeping began.

In a new article published in Solar Physics, the research team predicts that Sunspot Cycle 25 will peak with a maximum sunspot number somewhere between approximately 210 and 260, which would put the new cycle in the company of the top few ever observed.

The cycle that just ended, Sunspot Cycle 24, peaked with a sunspot number of 116, and the consensus forecast from a panel of experts convened by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting that Sunspot Cycle 25 will be similarly weak. The panel predicts a peak sunspot number of 115.

If the new NCAR-led forecast is borne out, it would lend support to the research team’s unorthodox theory – detailed in a series of papers published over the last decade – that the Sun has overlapping 22-year magnetic cycles that interact to produce the well-known, approximately 11-year sunspot cycle as a byproduct. The 22-year cycles repeat like clockwork and could be a key to finally making accurate predictions of the timing and nature of sunspot cycles, as well as many of the effects they produce, according to the study’s authors.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article.

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NASA Video: The Solar Cycle as seen from space

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave (K4SV), who shares this video courtesy of NASA Goddard:

The Sun is stirring from its latest slumber. As sunspots and flares, signs of a new solar cycle, bubble from the Sun’s surface, scientists are anticipating a flurry of solar activity over the next few years. Roughly every 11 years, at the height of this cycle, the Sun’s magnetic poles flip — on Earth, that’d be like the North and South Poles’ swapping places every decade — and the Sun transitions from sluggish to active and stormy. At its quietest, the Sun is at solar minimum; during solar maximum, the Sun blazes with bright flares and solar eruptions. In this video, view the Sun’s disk from our space telescopes as it transitions from minimum to maximum in the solar cycle.

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing, Dave!

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Radio Waves: Digital Broadcasts in South Africa, Cold War Broadcasting in Late Soviet Era, Possible Ban on RFI Producers in Sweden, and Ham Radio on the ISS

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Paul, Michael Bird,  William Lee, Rob PE9PE, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


SABA partners with T&A and Sentech to deliver digital radio in SADC (Advanced Television)

The Southern African community will soon enjoy digital audio broadcasts, thanks to an initiative lead by a South African based entity, Thembeka & Associates that has taken the lead in implementing the much anticipated interactive radio solution.

This was announced by the Secretary-General of the Southern African Broadcasting Association, SABA, Mr Cecil Jarurakouje Nguvauva, following the conclusion of initial agreements between the participating entities. Welcoming the digital radio solution to the SADC region, Nguvauva emphasised the need for rural communities to be engaged fully in the developmental agenda of the respective African governments if the planned development is to add value to the lives of the most disadvantaged members of our society.

Chief Executive Officer of Thembeka & Associates, Madam Thembeka Kaka has hailed this initiative a huge success for the continent and a dream come true for her institution. Madam Kaka added that as a member of the National Committee on ICT Chamber Accessible Broadcasting for People Living with Disabilities, she has passionately driven this project for a long while. Madam Kaka added that “Following the announcement of the Policy Directive that has introduced Digital Sound Broadcasting by the South African Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams in July this year. I have since realised that greater opportunities have emerged for the broadcast industry as a whole. And this initialises an evolution of radio broadcasts going forward,” she stated.

Sentech’s Meyerton Radio Shortwave site in South Africa will carry the Digital Sound Broadcasting Shortwave Transmission from the broadcast centre in Southern Africa to the rest of SADC countries.

For the initial stage, only six countries are earmarked for the coverage, before it is rolled out to the rest of the SADC Region. The targeted countries are Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zambia and South Africa. The rapid deployment is planned to work alongside the existing analogue radio service, which will seamlessly transition to a fully-fledged Digital Radio transmission in SADC. The receivers to be deployed will have the capabilities to receive and transmit both Analogue and Digital radio signal on FM and AM.

The primary purpose of the initiative is for governments and various newsmakers to urgently provide vital information to all citizens, especially the rural, remote and marginalised vulnerable communities. The outbreak of COVID-19 has amplified the need for this undertaking, that has highlighted risk areas in our various communities. Particular emphasis will be given to the following sectors in the respective communities: Education Sector; Health Sector; Socio-Economic factors; Gender issues; Youth & Disability.[]

Listening Out, Listening For, Listening In: Cold War Radio Broadcasting and the Late Soviet Audience (Wiley Online Library)

Abstract

This article interrogates the well?known phenomenon of western broadcasting to the Soviet Union from the little?known vantage point of the audience’s sonic experience and expression. I use the example of the BBC’s main popular music program in the late USSR, Rok posevy, with its remarkable presenter, Seva Novgorodsev, to explore fundamental questions about the who, how, and why of listening to the so?called “enemy voices.” The popularity of Novgorodsev’s show, I argue, is best understood in the context of the Soviet soundscape and, in particular, of longstanding Soviet media practices, including radio jamming and Soviet ideologies of the voice. Novgorodsev’s Rok posevy presented listeners with a powerful alternative sociocultural space, one that promoted models of authority and community very different from Soviet norms and, indeed, antithetical to Soviet norms.[]

Swedish Electrical Safety Agency threatens ban on sale of optimizers (Southgate ARC)

In Sweden the Swedish Electrical Safety Agency may ban the sale of optimizers used in Solar Panel installations due to the high level of RF Pollution they produce

A translation of an SSA post reads:

The Swedish Electrical Safety Agency wants to remove optimizers that spread interference. “It should be easy for the electrician to do the right thing.”

– We want to remove all solar cell products that spread disruption from the market. It should be easy for the electrician to do the right thing, and if you choose CE-marked gadgets and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, the system should be nice, says Martin Gustafsson, who is an inspector in market control at the Swedish Electrical Safety Agency. reports of disturbing solar cells. In addition to radio amateurs such as Anders Ljunggren, the  mobile operator Telia is among those affected . The Swedish Electrical Safety Board has made inspection visits to disturbing facilities, and carried out a market review of optimizers and inverters from eleven different manufacturers.

“They take advantage of a gap in the standard and instead hide behind a general EMC standard.”

The report is not complete yet. However, one of the conclusions is that a number of manufacturers of interfering products have chosen not to use the standard developed for photovoltaic products, but which has not yet been harmonized by the European Commission.

– They use a gap in the standard and instead hide behind a general EMC standard, which does not make any demands on the dc side. This makes our evidentiary situation difficult. But if the disruption problems are not solved, the products can be banned from sale, says Martin Gustafsson.

Text:  Charlotta von Schultz – www.elinstallatoren.se

Thank you SM5TJH / Janne for the information
Source SSA https://tinyurl.com/SwedenSSA

New Ham Radio Onboard The ISS Is On The Air (K0LWC Blog)

Ham Radio operators have enjoyed making contact with the ISS for many years. The holy grail has always been talking to ISS astronauts on FM simplex (145.800) — but those can be rare chance encounters. Ham radio operators have also enjoyed slow-scan television (SSTV) broadcasts and APRS packet radio via the ISS digipeater. Now we get to work the world’s most expensive FM repeater thanks to the new InterOperable Radio System (IORS) installed on the ISS.

The InterOperable Radio System (IORS) replaces an ancient Ericsson radio system and packet module that were certified for spaceflight over two decades ago. The 5 watt HT that was aboard the ISS was getting worn out after many years of use. The Ericsson radio looks like something from a 1990s episode of Cops.

The new IORS was launched from Kennedy Space Center on March 6, 2020 onboard the SpaceX CRS-20 resupply mission. It consists of a custom space-modified Kenwood D710GA transceiver and an ARISS-developed multi-voltage power supply. The equipment was installed by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (KF5KDR).

New Kenwood D710G ‘Space Flight Edition’

The radio now being used is a Kenwood D710G and was engineered specifically for space flight. JVCKENWOOD USA and the ARISS worked closely to modify the D710G. The upgrades were performed by JVCKENWOOD and include:

  • Output power is hardware limited to 25 watts for the safety of the International Space Station
  • Custom firmware and menus tailored for operation onboard the ISS.
  • Higher output/high-reliability fan to allow continuous repeater operation.

Continuous fan operation is an important feature in space for the reliability of the radio. There is no convection in microgravity, so all heat-generating components need to be cooled by moving air or conduction. If the radio burns up, there isn’t a Ham Radio Outlet down the street to grab parts.[Continue reading the the full article at K0LWC’s blog…]


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NASA Science Live presents “Our Next Solar Cycle”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who writes:

On Tuesday, September 15, 2020 Science at NASA had a presentation on the next solar cycle predictions.

It’s available on YouTube and other outlets without needing a login or Zoom serial number:

Fascinating! Thanks for the tip, Paul!

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Might be a good idea to protect your gear: Scientists believe the Carrington Event “was not unique”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who shares the following story from Spaceweather.com (my comments follow):

On Sept. 1st, 1859, the most ferocious solar storm in recorded history engulfed our planet. It was “the Carrington Event,” named after British scientist Richard Carrington, who witnessed the flare that started it. The storm rocked Earth’s magnetic field, sparked auroras over Cuba, the Bahamas and Hawaii, set fire to telegraph stations, and wrote itself into history books as the Biggest. Solar. Storm. Ever.

But, sometimes, what you read in history books is wrong.

“The Carrington Event was not unique,” says Hisashi Hayakawa of Japan’s Nagoya University, whose recent study of solar storms has uncovered other events of comparable intensity. “While the Carrington Event has long been considered a once-in-a-century catastrophe, historical observations warn us that this may be something that occurs much more frequently.”

To generations of space weather forecasters who learned in school that the Carrington Event was one of a kind, these are unsettling thoughts. Modern technology is far more vulnerable to solar storms than 19th-century telegraphs. Think about GPS, the internet, and transcontinental power grids that can carry geomagnetic storm surges from coast to coast in a matter of minutes. A modern-day Carrington Event could cause widespread power outages along with disruptions to navigation, air travel, banking, and all forms of digital communication.

Many previous studies of solar superstorms leaned heavily on Western Hemisphere accounts, omitting data from the Eastern Hemisphere. This skewed perceptions of the Carrington Event, highlighting its importance while causing other superstorms to be overlooked.

[…]Hayakawa’s team has delved into the history of other storms as well, examining Japanese diaries, Chinese and Korean government records, archives of the Russian Central Observatory, and log-books from ships at sea–all helping to form a more complete picture of events.

They found that superstorms in February 1872 and May 1921 were also comparable to the Carrington Event, with similar magnetic amplitudes and widespread auroras. Two more storms are nipping at Carrington’s heels: The Quebec Blackout of March 13, 1989, and an unnamed storm on Sept. 25, 1909, were only a factor of ~2 less intense. (Check Table 1 of Hayakawa et al’s 2019 paper for details.)

“This is likely happening much more often than previously thought,” says Hayakawa.

Are we overdue for another Carrington Event? Maybe. In fact, we might have just missed one.

In July 2012, NASA and European spacecraft watched an extreme solar storm erupt from the sun and narrowly miss Earth. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” announced Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado at a NOAA Space Weather Workshop 2 years later. “It might have been stronger than the Carrington Event itself.”

History books, let the re-write begin.

Click here to read at Spaceweather.com.

With the way 2020 has gone so far, it might be wise to take a look at our EMP Primer which goes into detail about how to protect your radio gear from an EMP event like this. It’s not an expensive process, but requires advance preparation.

Click here to check out our EMP primer.

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