HF radio is amazing even during solar Minimum

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VE7DXW, Oct 29, 2018.

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  1. VE7DXW

    VE7DXW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi Everybody;

    Last weekend’s contest had an incredible amount of HAMs all over the world participating. Despite the fact that propagation forecasts were poor - solar flux is at a mere 68 - we turned on our transceivers. This just shows that we are optimists and this time we really got lucky!
    Earlier that week the RF-Seismograph team reported a slow moving solar wind cloud that had escaped the sun during the explosion of a solar filament (see below). It was just the right energy to light up the ionosphere and create a flurry of activity on all bands!(see below)


    I personally was mostly listening to 15m which I have not heard anyone using SSB in years. It struck me that 15m would be open with such a low solar flux index. Stations were booming in from all over the globe, but I had a direct path in a southern easterly direction.

    Here is what I heard using USB Voice:
    Aruba P40T
    on 21.370MHz S9-5 distance: 3925.2 mi (6317.0 km) Oct 27 approx 2300 Zulu Time
    Aruba P40T on 21.292MHz S8-5 distance: 3925.2 mi (6317.0 km) Oct 28 approx 2200 Zulu Time
    Cuba HK3TK on 21.322MHz S9-5 distance: 2845.1 mi (4578.7 km) Oct 28 approx 2220 Zulu Time
    Virgin Islands KP2M on 21.234MHz S6-4 distance: 3877.9 mi (6240.9 km) Oct 28 approx 2230 Zulu
    Brazil ZX5J on 21.239MHz – S9-5 distance: 6986.3 mi (11243.4 km) Oct 28 approx 2235 Zulu Time
    Chile CE3DNP on 21.372MHz – S7-4 distance: 6565.9 mi (10566.7 km) Oct 28 approx 2250 Zulu Time
    Netherlands Antilles PJ4G on 21.378MHz S6-5 distance: 4020.0 mi (6469.5 km) Oct 28 apprx 2300 Z
    Argentina LU5VV on 21.2285MHz S9-5 distance: 6995.1 mi (11257.5 km) Oct 28 approx 2300 Zulu

    Wow… I did not even know of a place called Netherlands Antilles!

    All the best and see you on the air… and if you want to sign-up for our propagat5ion alerts and comments please join our group at:


    Alex – VE7DXW


    Message Excerpt: Slow Moving CME on it way during solar min... 17 and 15m bands are open!
    Conditions at the MDSR test station were excellent over the past 24h considering the fact that we are in solar min. The coronal holes have subsided, but now a CME caused by a collapsing magnetic filament is moving towards earth. Using the solar wind prediction tool (WSA – ENLIL) the trajectory is predicted to be earth directed. The biggest uncertainty is the speed of the cloud which could take up to a week to reach our planet. Stay tuned for further analysis on this subject, when it comes available. Effects on propagation are not certain yet either.
    KD2ANN, KX1MAD, MM0XXW and 4 others like this.
  2. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ah, I believe Netherlands Antilles is a deleted DXCC entity. PJ4G is Bonaire Island, a DXCC entity in its own right, and part of what used to be the DXCC entity Netherlands Antilles.

    That said, YES, the bands were alive all weekend. I made several hundred contacts on 20-15 meters in a casual effort. K3LR made 7,544 contacts this weekend.

    But, I routinely make CW/SSB contacts on 15 meters, sometimes even on 12 meters, during the week and on weekends, during this lull in sunspots. You don't need a big contest weekend, if you have good antennas.
    M1WML, VE7DXW and KA0HCP like this.
  3. VE7DXW

    VE7DXW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi Peter;

    Thank you for the comment and yes there are micro openings that happen in the higher bands all the time. The only thing is that it takes dedication and perseverance to find these openings. If you have big antennas that helps too... and since I use my big vertical for the RF-Seismograph measurement I only was listening in using a horizontal MFG-1979 telescopic antenna.
    One of the main differences is also that during a contest most people will turn on their 1kW amps and if there is a small reflective layer you get quite some DX. What would actually be neat to find out is, if the the layers get thicker during the contests due to all that RF-energy....

    I do a lot of QRP work as a portable operator and I found that a properly maintained resonant antenna can make a huge difference. In situations were power is limited and battery size(weight) is an issue a good tuned antenna is a must.

    All the best and thank you again;Alex - VE7DXW
    M1WML, KC8VWM and N4UP like this.
  4. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Alex.

    From your QRZ page ( MDSR ) and comments above, it looks like you are much more adept with the SDR end of things than I am. I am an old guy, first active during the 1963-1965 sunspot minimum, so I didn't know what propagation with sunspots was like until I came back in 2013. That's part of why I am not dismayed by the lack of sunspots. One can always find a band and/or mode that works. It also motivated me to improve my low band antennas, while not giving up on the higher bands.

    Unlike some "old guys" I am not threatened by SDR or digital modes or computer interfaces. I believe all those things ( and more ) contribute to this great hobby ( I enjoy CW, SSB, RTTY, and digital modes ) and my modest SDR-Play is a wonderful addition to my station. I have come to love my HDSDR display which is driven by whatever RX antenna I am using.

    But of course the real point of your message ( and mine ) is that there is propagation, and the bands are alive. It is just that propagation patterns and signal strengths are not what many people are accustomed to. And low sunspot activity reveals the strengths and limitations of our antenna systems. I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone say they have tuned across 15 meters and couldn't hear even one signal, when I can tune across the band and hear many signals. I urge people to not complain about conditions, but rather to improve their antennas and adapt to the current conditions.

    No doubt many are using weak signal modes like FT8 which work in "poor" conditions and with compromise antennas, but I still enjoy looking for and finding CW signals on the higher bands. I am rarely disappointed.

    Thanks Alex, you have introduced me to MDSR which I look forward to exploring.
    N0NEV, K2NCC, M1WML and 1 other person like this.
  5. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    VP6D has peaked with 15k QSOs in a day. And they aren't just local contacts!
    M1WML and VE7DXW like this.
  6. NA5WH

    NA5WH Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Definitely is somewhat surprising to me. Obviously radio technology has changed... and maybe my patience has changed.. but even with an antenna basically surrounded by foil-wrapped concrete boxes (8-family two-story town home blocks)... get 10-30 contacts a night generally... still have difficulty with dx in some directions... and still far form idea... but have quite a few European and south American stations in the log myself. low noise levels of solar min also lead to more comfortable shortwave listening. (but that might also be 20 years improvement in radios from when I used to do it often)
    M1WML and VE7DXW like this.
  7. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes ! And I was surprised at how strong they were at times on multiple bands. Working them easily on 80 meters was unexpected. I worked them on CW for three bands and on SSB for three bands without actually looking for them.

    But they do have good/great antennas, both for TX and RX, with great operators, and they really understand propagation patterns.
    M1WML and VE7DXW like this.
  8. WA8FOZ

    WA8FOZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ah, the magic of radio. After nearly 60 years since I began as an SWL, it still delights me.
    KT4RK, KD4AYU, VK6APZ and 5 others like this.
  9. KA2FIR

    KA2FIR Ham Member QRZ Page

    What "good" antennas do you have?
    VE7DXW and M1WML like this.
  10. VE7DXW

    VE7DXW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nothing special - just a MFG1979 telescopic antenna with a home brewed loading coil. It is a great antenna for portable operations and woks great on the top of my car.
    - Alex
    M1WML likes this.

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