As you might imagine, radio astronomy observatories are places with very low levels of radio frequency interference. Since I had a few hours on the PARI campus to play radio, I used it as an opportunity to evaluate the CCRadio-EP Pro‘s AM/mediumwave performance.
For comparison purposes, I packed the CCRadio-EP Pro, Tecsun PL-660 and (for kicks) my Sony ICF-5500W.
Now isn’t the ICF-5500W a handsome boy?
I’ll post some of the CCRadio-EP Pro videos in my final review.
Though it was immense fun tuning through the AM broadcast band right through the gray line, being an SWL, I eventually turned to the shortwaves. The only shortwave radio I had on hand was the amazing little Tecsun PL-660. Conditions weren’t as bad as I had expected–propagation was decent and did I mention no noise?
After tuning around a bit, I happened upon one of my favorite interval signals: that of the Voice of Turkey.
Everything around me–all that was on my mind–simply took a backseat to the simple pleasure of listening to an interval signal on a cool, foggy spring evening surrounded by the beauty of PARI’s campus and those giant radio telescopes.
Though the feeling was nearly impossible to capture, I did make a recording to share with SWLing Post friends and readers from around the world. I hope you enjoy:
PARI is expecting at least 1,000 visitors tomorrow, from a number of countries. Many are scientists, astronomers, and guests who want to be in the path of totality.
On the PARI campus, we will be in totality for about 1 minutes, 47 seconds.
What makes the event truly special for PARI is that this is the first time in history a world-class radio astronomy observatory has been in the path of totality. To say the PARI astronomers are excited is simply an understatement. All four of PARI’s telescopes will be trained on our local star and gathering copious amounts of data.
If you don’t live in the path of the Eclipse, I invite you to check out PARI’s YouTube channel where they will host a live stream:
I will also be gathering data of my own during the event.
I will remotely record the entire mediumwave (AM broadcast) band several hours before, during and after the eclipse. I will also set up a separate SDR to record either the 31/30 meter bands and my buddy, Vlado (N3CZ) is kindly using his SDRplay RSP1 to record from 6 MHz – 8 MHz.
What do I expect to see/hear in the spectrum recordings? Certainly a drop in noise. If I’m lucky, I also hope to hear some DX anomalies–hopefully a signal or two that I wouldn’t normally here in the middle of a summer day.
I don’t expect any dramatic results (though I would love to be proven otherwise!) since the ionosphere takes time to change states. My buddy Mike (K8RAT) likens it to an oven: it takes time for it to heat up to the desired temperature, and it takes time for it to cool down as well. I’m not so sure the shadow of the moon, which moves at a good clip, will be persistent enough to change the state of the ionosphere in any meaningful way.
SWLing Post contributor, Dan Srebnick also suggests a few stations you might try catching on the AM broadcast band. Dan notes:
Something to do during the solar eclipse on Monday. There are 13 clear channel AM stations along the path of totality. Give a listen for them:
[LIST OF AM CLEAR CHANNEL STATIONS]
kHz CALL Location Eclipse UTC
—— ——- —————- ————–
650 WSM Nashville, TN 18:28
670 KBOI Boise, ID 17:27
750 WSB Atlanta, GA 18:36
840 WHAS Louisville, KY 18:27
880 KRVN Lexington, NE 17:57
1030 KTWO Casper, WY 17:43
1040 WHO DesMoines, IA 18:08
1110 KFAB Omaha, NE 18:04
1110 WBT Charlotte, NC 18:41
1120 KPNW Eugene, OR 17:17
1120 KMOX St. Louis, MO 18:18
1190 KEX Portland, OR 17:19
1510 WLAC Nashville, TN 18:28
Kudos to Bob WB4APR (of APRS fame) for producing this list.
Post readers: Will you be in the path of totality or do you plan to enjoy a partial eclipse? Have you ever experienced a total solar eclipse? What are your plans if any? Please comment!
When the Moon’s shadow glides across the U.S. on August 21st, you’ll have have a chance to hear the eclipse as it happens.
Solar eclipses are more than remarkable visual astronomical phenomena; they’re pretty interesting from a radio viewpoint too. Should overcast skies prevail over your location on eclipse day, you can still make some interesting observations using an AM radio.
Dramatic changes can take place in radio reception when day changes into night and vice versa. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of driving in your car at night, listening to some program on the AM dial, when the announcer will identify the station as WBBM in Chicago. This might seem odd if you are listening from Albany, New York, more than 700 miles (1,100 km) from the Windy City. Yet, cases like this happen every night.
A total solar eclipse produces a broad, round area of darkness and greatly reduced sunlight that travels across Earth’s surface in a relatively narrow path during the daytime. Its effect on sunlight’s local intensity is remarkably similar to what happens at sunrise and sunset. Distant radio stations along and near to the path of totality might briefly experience enhanced propagation, thus making long-distance reception possible during a solar eclipse unlike any other time.
I’ll be volunteering at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) for the eclipse–they are in the path of totality. I also plan to do a spectrum recording of both the mediumwave and 31 meter band during the event.
Do any other SWLing Post readers have eclipse plans?
I’ve been fascinated with radio astronomy since my university days. In the 1980s and 90s almost any radio astronomy experiment equated to forking out some serious money to purchase a wideband receiver (serious money to a student, at least). With the advent of SDRs, though, radio astronomy has become affordable for everyone.
Over on YouTube user MaskitolSAE has uploaded a video showing him receiving some noise bursts from Jupiter with his SDRplay RSP1. The planet Jupiter is known to emit bursts of noise via natural ‘radio lasers’ powered partly by the planets interaction with the electrically conductive gases emitted by Io, one of the the planets moons. When Jupiter is high in the sky and the Earth passes through one of these radio lasers the noise bursts can be received on Earth quite easily with an appropriate antenna
In his video MaskitolSAE shows the 10 MHz of waterfall and audio from some Jupiter noise bursts received with his SDRplay RSP1 at 22119 kHz. According to the YouTube description, it appears that he is using the UTR-2 radio telescope which is a large Ukrainian radio telescope installation that consists of an array of 2040 dipoles. A professional radio telescope installation is not required to receive the Jupiter bursts (a backyard dipole tuned to ~20 MHz will work), but the professional radio telescope does get some really nice strong bursts as seen in the video.
As Carl mentions above, you do not need a professional radio telescope to receive Jupiter noise bursts, a dipole will do.
In fact, the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) has a dedicated Jupiter receiver–a simple SDR kit called the Radio JOVE Receiver which is promoted by NASA. While PARI has the resources to install any number of antennas, PARI uses two simple dipoles which are mounted only a few feet off the ground as their radio telescope. I doubt their investment in the antennas exceeded $50. It works brilliantly.
The Radio JOVE receiver at PARI
I had planned to purchase and build a JOVE receiver (and, for fun, still may!), but it would be much easier to simply use the SDRplay RSP I already have in my shack. What a great project this fall.
Post readers: Please comment if you’ve used an SDR or JOVE kit to receive Jupiter bursts!
During a break, I had a couple of free hours, so I reached in my messenger bag and pulled out the Sony ICF-SW100: a radio that has quickly surpassed all others as my favorite EDC (everyday carry) radio. It has so many useful features in such a small package!
Radio astronomy observatories are ideal locations for impromptu shortwave radio listening as there is little to no radio interference/noise present.
PARI’s “Building 1” and the 26 West (left) and 26 East (right) radio telescopes.
While the weather on Thursday was gorgeous, HF band conditions were…well…miserable. There was very little to hear other than China Radio International, Radio Havana Cuba and a few other blow torch broadcasters.
I tuned to 15 MHz and, of course, there was reliable WWV in Fort Collins, Colorado on frequency. Though WWV’s signal was relatively strong (despite the conditions) I turned on the SW100’s sync detector because fading (QSB) was pronounced at times.
Here’s a short video of the ICF-SW100 on a picnic table in the middle of the PARI campus. That’s PARI’s 26 (meter) West telescope in the background: