Friday, 21 December 2018

VHF Sporadic E when you least expect it.

It is sunset here as I write this - today sunset is at 15:36. Only seven hours of daylight today, with the Sun rising at 08:37. Not exactly the type of day one might associate with Sporadic E. Yet I am reporting on a really good Es opening the day before yesterday, the 19th of December.

This is my second post today, the other one is here

In the midst of being on the lookout for December meteor showers it is easy to overlook seasonal Es. The same applies in early January. The things to look out for are when your MSK144 graph fills with a single strong station. Watching 10m is another trick, which is how I found it (thanks to Jaap, PA0O, whose 10m WSPR drew my attention to it). Then again one could watch DX Maps, PSK reporter or set up alerts on your phone with EsSense.
PSK reporter showing 15 minutes of 6m Es on 19 December 2018. Note that was already dark at ground level.
Or maybe just listen for it ...

There is often Winter Es about at this time of year, which is frequently wrongly called "Christmas Es". That name tends to makes people look at the wrong time. It could happen during my annual appearance on the RSGB Christmas Cumulative contest, but it never does. Not yet anyway. Sometime between early December and mid January seems to be the time. You just do not know exactly when or how often. It is usually a middle of the day thing, so having it in the dark is a bit unusual.

The opening here lasted two hours and 40 minutes, and I worked 36 QSOs, 22 squares, and 8 DXCC in that time. Plus I had a contact with Dale MM0INH at the end, when we tried to express how tired we were using the few characters you get in the FT8 mode.
6m Es contacts at GM4FVM on 19 December. The guy due South thinks he is at the South Pole (he isn't).
9A3ST (JN75) looks like the best DX at 1652km.

Great fun, totally unpredictable. All we need now is an aurora and a strong tropo opening and Christmas is complete (well, unless I get any "Co-op for Men" that is).

This says to me that the 50MHz band is a key part of my all-round VHF activity. I do find it a bit "easy", but then again not when I am pushing for DX. However, when I am putting together a year-round schedule of things to do, 6m has a habit of surprising me (in a nice way).

Simple antennas are very effective on 6m. Wire dipoles, crossed dipoles, HB9CVs, and verticals can all play their part. I was still using only 50W or so from the IC-7100. Being around at the right time is always important.

I did not do much on 4m during this opening, and I find that Winter Es rarely reaches 70MHz. However, I did hear a German station on FT8, but just long enough for one decode. 10m was also quiet, perhaps because activity is low. This is especially true on the WSPR mode which I use so much. I am beginning to think that WSPR is doomed, which is a pity given its ability to make antenna comparisons and run all night. I will not give up on WSPR in a hurry because I think that it still has relevance.

Anyway, that is amateur radio. Like life, you just never know what is around the corner.

Perhaps that is just as well.




1 comment:

  1. Jim

    Happy new year 2019! I cannot (!) confirm that 10m was quiet, at least not in south DL where I am living.
    I was QRV some time on 10m that day and it was full open to
    many directions. Even there was immense short skip from South
    DL to north DL. vy 73 de DL5MAE Wolfgang