Tag Archives: Propagation

Guest Post: Eclipse 2017 – Shortwave Propagation Observations

A map of the United States showing the path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. (Source: NASA)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob LaRose (W6ACU), for the following guest post:


Eclipse 2017 Propagation Observations

by Bob LaRose (W6ACU)

DXers know that the reception of overseas Shortwave Broadcast stations offers one of the best ways to immediately gauge shortwave radio propagation conditions from your location to distant areas of the world. For the eclipse of 2017 I decided to see how reception of SW broadcast stations on lower shortwave  broadcast frequencies (and to a smaller extent medium wave AM) reacted to the short term effects of the eclipse.  

Going into this experiment I suspected that since the eclipse should temporarily reduce ionization to D-layer of the ionosphere, there might be some reduction in corresponding typical D-layer daytime absorption on lower frequencies. The hope was that this would enhance lower frequency propagation, particularly on the path between Asia and Western North America, which is normally totally absorbed at that time of day. I also monitored for propagation on other HF stations such as WWV as well as US-based SW Broadcast Stations in Alaska and Tennessee, and to a lesser extent AM MW broadcast stations. Here are the results of my experiment.  

EQUIPMENT: 

The Icom -IC-7300

For these tests I was using an ICOM IC-7300 Transceiver as a receiver connected to my standard antenna for lower frequency use – a Carolina Windom with the center about twenty feet off the ground. The antenna works reasonably well over a wide frequency range, including the lower SW and the medium wave AM broadcast bands. Because of my high local electrical noise level and proximity to several local AM broadcast transmitters, I turned off the built-in RF amplifier of the IC-7300 for all the tests. I used the uncalibrated S Meter of the radio to measure relative signal strengths in S units and dB above S-9. 

BASELINE TESTS 

The day before the eclipse I took baseline measurements at about the time of the eclipse. Because of normal summer daylight absorption, there were no signals present on either the 49 or 41 meter SW broadcast bands. At this time of year signals on those two bands generally fade below the local noise level at my QTH San Diego by about 1500 UTC.  

I also checked the reliable daily beacons on SW at that time are the WWV frequencies of 5 and 10 MHz, The baseline for WWV was a signal strength of S5 on 5 MHz and S7-9 on 10Mhz.  

I also took some baseline measurements of AM broadcast stations in Los Angeles (KFI 640 and KNX 1070). I was not able to receive any of the San Francisco, Sacramento, Las Vegas stations or points further North.  

THE DAY OF THE ECLIPSE 

According the Internet sources the eclipse began in San Diego at 1607 UTC, peaked at 1723 UTC and ended at 1846 UTC. It reached 66% of totality. 

My first observation was at 1550 UTC. The strength of all signals were at the nominal readings from the day before. At 1630 I still did not hear any SW broadcast stations above the local noise level. 

By 1640 the HF broadcast stations had begun to break through the noise. Here is a chart of my reception observations during the observation period:  

Freq KHz  Station and Location  Time in UTC vs. Relative Signal Strength (S Units) 
    1550  1630  1640  1650  1710  1725  1745  1800  1815  1830 
640  KFI Los Angeles  9  9  9  9  9  9  9  9  9  9 
1530  KFBK Sacramento, CA  0  0  0  0  3  6  2  0  0  0 
5000  WWV Ft Collins, CO  5  5  7  9  9  9  6-7  7  5  5 
5845  BBC Singapore (ends at 1700)  0  0  0  9  0  0  0  0  0  0 
5995  Korea – Echo of Hope (presumed)  0  0  0  0  6  0  0  0  0  0 
6015  Korea (presumed)  0  0  0  5  0  0  0  0  0  0 
6045  Korea (presumed)  0  0  0  6  0  0  0  0  0  0 
6125  China National radio  0  0  0  6  0  0  0  0  0  0 
6155  Taiwan (1700-1730)  0  0  0  0  S9+10  5-7  0  0  0  0 
6165  Yamata Japan for Korea (1600-1700)  0  0  6  7-9  0  0  0  0  0  0 
6175  China National Radio  0  0  0  0  5-7  7-9  7-9  0  0  0 
6195  BBC Singapore (open carrier – presumed tune-up for next morning  0  0  0  0  S9+10-20  0  0  0  0  0 
7300  Radio Taiwan  0  0  7  0  0  0  0  0  0  0 
7385  China National Radio  0  0  9  0  0  0  0  0  0  0 
7465  BBC Singapore (ends at 1700)  0  0  S7-8  0  0  0  0  0  0  0 
7485  VOA Thailand (started 1700)  0  0  0  0  7-8  3  0  0  0  0 
7540  VOA Thailand (started at 1700)  0  0  0  0  0  S5-7  0  0  0  0 
9355  Radio Free Asia (Marianas Islds, starts at 1700)  0  0  0  0  5-7  0  0  0  0  0 
9475  WTWW Lebanon, TN  0  0  0  0  0  0  7-9  7  4-6  0 
9655  KLNS Anchor Point, AK  0  0  9  6-7  7-8  0  0  0  0  0 
9965  Radio Free Asia (Marianas Islds, starts at 1700)  0  0  0  0  9  5-7  0  0  0  0 
9980  WWCR Nashville, TN  8  7-9  7-8  7-8  7-8  7-8  7-8  9  7-9  7-8 
10000  WWV Ft Collins, CO  7  S9+10  9  9  9  5-7  9  9  6-8  7-9 
12160  WWCR Nashville, TN  S9+20  S9+10  S9+10  N/R  N/R  N/R  N/R  S9+10  S9+20  N/R 

 N/R = Not recorded 

REVIEW OF RESULTS 

As the results show, there was a very significant improvement in lower frequency shortwave propagation between San Diego and Asia during the eclipse. The 49 and 41 meter SW broadcast bands in particular went from below the noise level to providing good reception of a number of Asian and Pacific broadcast stations, starting at around 1640 UTC. Stations were received from China, Korea, Mariana islands, Taiwan, and Singapore. All stations fell back below the noise level by 1745UTC. 

Reception of WWV Ft Collins, CO on 5 MHz also greatly improved around 1700 UTC. The 10 MHz signal was not significantly affected. 

As the eclipse moved East, Reception of WTWW on 9475 kHz and WWCR on 9980 kHz from Tennessee peaked at around 1745 UTC. There was no major effect to the WWCR transmission on 12160 kHz. 

On mediumwave AM the only long distance station that I could hear was KFBK Sacramento,1530kHz. The distance is roughly 475 miles. It went from below the noise to an S-6 at peak at 1725 UTC. (Note – I tried the clear channel stations in the Bay Area, Portland, Boise, etc. but none of them were heard. Many of these frequencies have either low power daytime stations or are right next to high power local stations here in Southern California). Reception of KFI 640 kHz Los Angeles (about 90 miles) was unchanged with no sign of typical nighttime selective fading.  

This was an interesting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this propagation experiment and the results show that the eclipse conditions can significantly improve certain types of radio propagation over long distances!


Fascinating results! Thank you so much for sharing your report of shortwave radio propagation during the 2017 Solar Eclipse, Bob! 

RadioWorld free eBook: Propagation Analysis for Profit

(Source: RadioWorld via Sheldon Harvey at the International Radio Report)

Latest Radio World eBook explores radio broadcast coverage tools and how to get the most out of them

Broadcasters have endless “what if” questions about their radio station’s signal. How would my coverage be affected if I … moved my FM antenna? Changed height? Increased transmitter power? Added a fill-in translator?

This ebook reveals that new software tools and data sets have changed the game when it comes to answering such questions. The book is targeted to FM, AM and shortwave broadcasters both in the U.S. and abroad. We talk to consulting engineers and other experts about the state of propagation analysis.

What tools are available? How do they work? What does a user need to know about contours, population data, mapping and terms like Longley-Rice? What resources are available online? When is it time to use a professional consultant?

This is the 33rd in Radio World’s hugely successful free eBook library. Read it here!

Click here to request the eBook via RadioWorld.

Visualising shortwave band activity throughout the year

This article originally appeared on the London Shortwave blog.

24-hour shortwave spectrum image, showing activity for a single day in the first week of February 2017 (©PA3FWM, Twente WebSDR).

As many of my readers and followers will already know, these days I mostly enjoy listening to shortwave radio via the outdoor spectrum captures I make in my local park. Although I have built a system that helps me deal with urban radio interference at home, some of the weaker signals still can’t make it through the indoor noise. Since I have a limited amount of time for making outdoor trips, capturing entire portions of the spectrum allows me to record a lot of shortwave signals simultaneously, which I can then explore individually at a later time. However, these trips still need to be carefully planned because the time of the day and the time of the year both affect long-distance signal propagation, and do so differently depending on the frequency range. For example, signals on the 16 meter band are usually at their strongest during the daylight hours, whereas the 31 meter band is at its busiest around sunrise and sunset. Because my current portable recording set-up allows me to capture only 10% (3 MHz) of the shortwave spectrum at any one time, I decided to carry out a systematic exploration of activity on the shortwave bands to help me time my outings so as to capture as many signals as possible during each trip.

Capturing the shortwave spectrum out in the field with a portable SDR set-up.

Luckily, I didn’t need to make any of my own measurements for this. For over a year, the wide-band WebSDR at the University of Twente has allowed its users to see what the shortwave spectrum has looked like over the past 24 hours in a single image. More recently, however, the creator of the service, Pieter-Tjerk de Boer PA3FWM, has opened up his spectrum image archives, so it is now possible to see the past conditions of the bands on any single day in the last two years. Intrigued by how band activity changes depending on the time of the year, I created a timelapse animation of these images by taking two from each calendar week and lining them up in sequence. With Pieter-Tjerk’s kind permission, I share this animation below.

First, a really fast version to illustrate the broad effects the time of the year has on peak activity times across the bands:


 Click here to view on YouTube

The X axis represents the frequency and the Y axis is the time of day, starting at the top. Conventional wisdom about band behaviour can be easily confirmed by watching this video: the 60m, 49m and 41m bands are mostly active after dark, with the 60m and the 49m bands being generally busier during the winter months. The 31m band is most active around sunset, but carries on all night until a few hours after sunrise. The 25m band is active during sunrise and for a few hours afterwards, and around sunset during the winter months, but carries on all night during the summer. Peak activity on the 22m and 19m bands is also clustered bi-modally around the morning and the evening hours, though somewhat closer to the middle of the day than on the 31m and the 25m bands. The 16m band is mostly active during the daylight hours and the 13m band is quiet throughout the year except for the occasional ham contest.

It almost seems as though someone positioned in the middle of the image’s right edge (corresponding to noon UTC) is shining two flashlight beams on the bands in a V-shaped pattern, and is changing the angle of this pattern depending on the time of the year: wider in the summer and narrower in winter. Here’s a slower version of the animation that shows some finer week-on-week changes:


 Click here to view on YouTube

Thanks to this data being made freely available, visualising and understanding these dynamics will help me schedule my spectrum capture outings in the weeks and months ahead.

USAF wants to release ionized gas in the upper atmosphere to improve HF

Earth

(Source: Southgate ARC)

New Scientist magazine reports the US Air Force is working on plans to improve HF radio propagation by releasing ionised gas in the upper atmosphere using a fleet of micro satellites

As well as increasing the range of radio signals, the USAF says it wants to smooth out the effects of solar winds, which can knock out GPS, and also investigate the possibility of blocking communication from enemy satellites.

The story says there are at least two major challenges. One is building a plasma generator small enough to fit on a CubeSat – roughly 10 centimetres cubed. Then there’s the problem of controlling exactly how the plasma will disperse once it is released.

Read the story at
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2100382-us-air-force-wants-to-plasma-bomb-the-sky-using-tiny-satellites/

Some scientists believe sun may be crossing into “magnetic middle age”

 (SILSO data/image, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels)

(SILSO data/image, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels)

I just received the following link to a Forbes article from my buddy Charlie (W4MEC).

If this research turns out to be correct–and time will only tell–it could mean very low solar activity from here on out (let’s hope not!):

(Source: Forbes Magazine via Charlie W4MEC)

The Sun has likely already entered into a new unpredicted long-term phase of its evolution as a hydrogen-burning main sequence star — one characterized by magnetic sputtering indicative of a more quiescent middle-age. Or so say the authors of a new paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Using observations of other sunlike stars made by NASA ’s Kepler Space Telescope, the team found that the Sun is currently in a special phase of its magnetic evolution.

At time of posting, the Sun has no Sun spots at all. The sun is blank--no sunspots, which means very low solar activity. Credit: SDO/HMI (Click to enlarge)

At time of posting (June 28, 2016) the Sun has no Sun spots at all, which means very low solar activity. Credit: SDO/HMI (Click to enlarge)

Heretofore, the Sun was thought to have been just a more slowly rotating version of a normal yellow dwarf (G-spectral type) star. These results offer the first real confirmation that the Sun is in the process of crossing into its magnetic middle age, where its 11-year Sunspot cycles are likely to slowly disappear entirely. That is, from here on out, the Sun is likely to have fewer sunspots than during the first half of its estimated 10 billion year life as a hydrogen-burning star.

“The Sun’s 11-year sunspot cycle is likely to disappear entirely, not just get less pronounced; [since] other stars with similar rotation rates show no sunspot cycles,” Travis Metcalfe, the paper’s lead author and an astronomer at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., told me.[…]

Continue reading the full article at Forbes online.