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Marcel de Bont

Amateur Radio forum

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Hello all and welcome to this shiny new forum dedicated to Amateur Radio (HAM radio) discussions. The HAM radio community is large and has thus far not really been a focal point for our website but we do know quite a few of you visit us regularly to check on the solar conditions. I have to admit, we do not know so much about HAM radio but that makes it even more exciting to open this forum and see if we can get some discussions going in here. We will learn from it and hopefully we can get a community going in here. Something else we are looking for is input from you on how we can improve our website SpaceWeatherLive.com for HAM radio users. What would you like to see on SWL to aid you with your hobby and where can we find the information that you use? Maybe we can integrate it in our site and create a page dedicated to HAM radio? The possibilities are endless (our webmaster Sander might not agree 100% with that but dont tell him okay) so get your thinking caps on fire away.

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Marcel - I am basically mirroring this (with a few edits) from your Facebook page as an addendum to your request for knowledge.

do amateur radio and in the past, I used to partake very seriously indeed in High Frequency (hf) contesting picking up a couple of world records and several World #1 spots. These contests were 48 hours in duration (CQ World Wide morse and voice) and the aim was to work not only as many stations as possible but also as many different countries on each of 5 hf bands (1.8MHz to 28MHz). The 28Mhz band I needed this information the most. To achieve these results I needed bang up to minute propagation results and these results were in a separate window on another screen so I could monitor and adapt to change. I required a livestream for: SFI, SF density, sunspot counts, geomagnetic storm forecasts, SIDs etc. So I had a good idea of how stable/unstable the ionosphere was at a given time. Despite a few of these contests coinciding with the peak of the sunspot cycle and the ionosphere fairly stable, the data was still vitally important to work out when the high bands were open and and when to change frequencies. Especially 28Mhz and 21MHz which are heavily influenced by solar flux levels and I needed to maximise continental band openings.

My main source of real time information came from Solarham although I also have a good grounding in propagation and have done propagation modelling in the past. From a radio communications aspect and working out band openings on hf, there is also the "grey line" to consider. The grey line are the times where day goes to night and vice versa. Affecting different ionospheric layers (mostly the D layer) but you can get band openings to specific parts of the world stronger than any other time. For example, when I wanted to work west coast USA on hf, the "window" of opportunity was only about 20 minutes and signals became pretty strong during this time and then died down to zero audibility. Knowing this information meant I could not only point a directional antenna towards the area I wanted to chat to but also work out the maximum usable frequency (MUF) I needed to use for that moment in time. Then of course following this grey line as it progresses across the earth as the day goes into darkness and alternatively comes out of darkness presenting a path for two distinct areas on the earth. When conditions are right, it is akin to pointing a narrow torchbeam onto a globe and slowly rotating it. I remember consecutive contacts (ie the loudest) going from New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, India .... and I knew Saudi would be peaking next and it was. Hf propagation can be very interesting ;)

Yes, I did keep an eye on these details continuously and they were windowed on a second monitor so I could see if an ionospheric storm was building up and for any signs of Dellinger fading or Sudden Ionspheric Disturbance (SID) - I monitored SIDs using a VLF antenna through a computer sound card. SIDs are also useful for detecting aurora activity as it arrives due to the dampening effect on the ionosphere. This in turn can have an enhanced effect on VLF and VHF signals due to the saturation of the D and E layers you can actually hear stations from a lot further than expected. On VHF it is normally "line of site" communications but you can hear stations more than 150 miles away (another aurora indicator). Using either morse code/voice this gives rise to something known as auroral scintillation where you can actually hear a "dualling" on the signal. This sounds very different from the 1/7th second echo due to the hf signal being received via both short path and long path at the same time.

Sorry, typing for England but hopefully there may be some nuggets that tie in with your train of thought :)

Hope this helps Marcel.

Steve

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Hey Steve, welcome! Thanks a ton for your input. It is really interesting for a novice like me who has virtually no connection to HAM radio at all to read about your experiences. We'll continue our research into the subject and see in what way we can improve SWL to cater more towards HAM radio users as well. This forum is a quick and easy first step to accomplish this so let's hope more HAM radio users find their way here. I think a dedicated page with all the critical info for HAM radio users would be a nice thing to have to make SWL more complete and even more interesting to the HAM radio community.

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Hi Marcel,

 I've been following the SpaceWeatherlive website and getting its alerts for a few months now.

The way we Ham Radio enthusiasts interpret the information supplied by the site is different from, for example, Aurora photographers. In general, when there's aurora around, it's bad for us as that aurora is actually the Plasma from the sun hitting the Ionosphere around the Earth which we use to bounce our short wave signals long distances off and the impact of the plasma raises the background noise level on radios, making it harder to hear long distance, weak signals.

The charged Ions that come ahead of the plasma from Coronal Holes, CMEs etc. however is good news for us as the more the Ionosphere is electrically charged, the better the signals reflect. Such Ionisation normally occurs through sun spots (explosions on the sun) but as we are currently at the bottom of the 11 year long sunspot cycle, these are quite rare, so any effects such as pre-auroral enhancement are very welcome to the Amateur Radio Community, when trying to make long distance contacts on the short wave bands and spaceweatherlive provides alerts when such conditions might be occuring and hence is a valuable resource for Amateur radio.

Regards  Ed.

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