WPX Logs

Last weekend (27/28 March 2021) was the CQ SSB World Wide WPX contest. This is held on the last weekend of March for SSB, and the last weekend of May for CW. Communication is on all the non-WARC bands.

I don’t usually bother joining the mayhem, but this year I’d look in as a listener. Its a good time to get new countries into the log book, as a lot of these contesters never show up during any other times.

Conditions weren’t too bad and as most of the contesters run legal limit, lots of signals were to be had. I must say the FT-450D coped admirably with separating big signals sometimes only a few Khz apart.

I shan’t list the logs, as there are about 150. But new countries in the log include Indonesia, Georgia and Qatar just to name but 3. Some call signs I had to look up as I was unsure of the country; examples being 4L8A (Georgia) and J42L (Greece).

The other reason for doing it is its a good test of the transceiver/antenna system, especially so if joining in fully and transmitting. Exchanges are, of course, fast and rudimentary, and of course, everyone is a ’59’ signal!!

Happy listening

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World Amateur Radio Day 2021

Celebrate World Amateur Radio Day on April 18th 2021

Sunday, April 18, is World Amateur Radio Day (WARD). This year marks the 96th anniversary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), founded at the 1925 International Radiotelegraph Conference in Paris.

ARRL cofounder and first president, Hiram Percy Maxim, 1AW, was there, and today, ARRL is the International Secretariat of the IARU. ARRL has resources that members can use to celebrate WARD, including graphics for social media posts and radio club websites, as well as a printable flyer.

IARU has chosen “Amateur Radio: Home but Never Alone” as the theme for WARD 2021. The theme acknowledges that during our physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, amateur radio stands out as a welcome respite for its variety of activities and opportunities.

Amateur radio experimenters were the first to discover that the HF spectrum was not the wasteland experts of that time considered it to be, but a resource that could support worldwide communication. In the rush to use these shorter wavelengths, amateur radio was “in grave danger of being pushed aside,” IARU history has noted, prompting the founding of the IARU.

At the 1927 International Radiotelegraph Convention, amateur radio gained allocations still recognized today — 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 meters. Over the years, the IARU has worked to give all radio amateurs new bands at 136 kHz, 472 kHz, 5 MHz, 10 MHz, 18 MHz, 24 MHz, and 50 MHz, and a regional European allocation at 70 MHz, and IARU defends those allocations.The 25 countries that formed the IARU in 1925 have grown to include more than 160 member-societies in three regions. IARU Region 1 includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North Asia. Region 2 covers the Americas, and Region 3 is comprised of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific island nations, and most of Asia. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recogn

Logs for 19th February

Not a bad day on the radio this afternoon. Conditions do seem to be improving, with a sunspot count today of 12. Still a lot of noise around and coupled with the local QRM, it can make listening tricky at times.

I managed to log V O Nigeria today, which I haven’t managed to log since August last year. The other plus was all the following were logged on the Tecsun PL-660 not my usual FT-450D. I am finding that while the filtering on the 450D is of course, superior to the 660, the 450D is optimised for SSB/CW and does not fair that well on AM. Added to this, the DSP tends to chop the top end from voices, so understanding what is said with a poor signal is difficult. The PL-660 does none of this but does have the option of sync which comes into its own with some signals.

Anyway, to the logs. Not a lot but I was happy with the results. All stations log using Tecsun PL-660 couples to a home made half size OCFD at approximately 25 feet and installed in an inverted V configuration.

15400 Khz Ascension Island BBCWS 17:25 UTC Program about Zambian art SINPO: 42333 2021-02-19

13630 Khz Botswana VOA 17:35 UTC Portugese service SINPO: 42333 2021-02-19

13730 Khz Madagascar R Japan 17:40 UTC Swahili service SINPO: 21222 2021-02-19

11660 Khz Swaziland TWR 17:45 UTC Amharic service SINPO: 32233 2021-02-19

11745 Khz Saudi Arabia Al-Azm Radio 17:55 UTC Arabic music SINPO: 32333 2021-02-19

11750 Khz Sri Lanka SBC 17:58 UTC Music SINPO: 43333 2021-02-19

11770 Khz Nigeria R Nigeria 18:03 UTC English service. World News SINPO: 32233 2021-02-19

9370 Khz Thailand VOA Deewa Radio 18:20 UTC Pashto service SINPO: 43333 2021-02-19

Listening to Mars

From the pages of the excellent https://spaceweather.com comes a article about hams listening to space craft orbiting Mars, specifically the Chinese Tianwen-1 craft.

“Ham radio operators are doing something that until recently only big Deep Space Networks could do. “We’re monitoring spacecraft around Mars,” says Scott Tilley of Roberts Creek, British Columbia, who listened to China’s Tianwen-1 probe go into orbit on Feb. 10th. The signal, which Tilley picked up in his own backyard, was “loud and audible.” “

For more info and details of this fascinating new aspect to our hobby, please look at the above link. And other interesting articles and info about space weather.

CW Beats the QRM

Over the last few years I think we have all found the rise in QRM levels due to RFI from all the ‘connected’ devices and especially poor switch mode power supplies. This is particularly a problem in suburbia, less so out in the country areas. And I’m sure its not going to get better any time soon. Around here, things weren’t to bad until LED street lighting was installed. Now I’m all for using these as I have them in the house, but I did my research and found the ones with the least amount of RFI. However, the local authority of course just chose the cheapest option with the result that I am surrounded by lighting with cheap, purely executed power supplies.

The noise starts in the middle of the Medium Wave band at about 1.2 Mhz and extends up to around 7 Mhz. I have had a spectrum analyser in the house and the peaks are clearly visible, with one at 2.65 Mhz being at a level of -65dB’s i.e a very loud signal to even the deafest of receivers.

Appeals to the local authority have been met with deaf ears as they’re only interested if the light works or not. As you can imagine, this level of noise wipes all but the loudest of AM signals on the MW and shortwave bands within that range of interference. So any MW/tropical band dxing is clearly out of the window along with 80m and part of the 40m ham bands. So what to do.

Well my interests radio wise have always encompassed the ham bands as well as BC bands and I did learn morse to 5 wpm years ago to get my ham ticket. CW (morse0 of course, being a narrow band, can be heard down in the noise when and voice modes would be wiped out. Also, the DSP filtering on the Yaesu 450D are superb and enable a CW signal deep in the noise to almost ‘pop out’.

So, over the last few months I have been sitting on the bottom end of the 40m and 20m bands and also the 30m band, which of course, is a CW-only band. My CW skills, by the way, are poor and the only part of any QSO I can copy is the callsign, as this is follows the ‘CQ CQ DE’ part of the start of a call. Now for some reason, I can reckon ‘CQ’ without even thinking about it, along with a few other characters such as ‘K’, ‘R’ ,’A’,’N’ and the combination of ‘7’ and ‘3’ for best wishes. However, all other letters are a bit of a struggle so I use https://morsecode.world/international/morse.html as an aid memoir whilst listening. With some high speed morse, getting the call sign can take a number of attempts. But, with continued listening, my ‘hit rate’ is improving. You never know, in time it might improve enough to be able to have a QSO myself! However, at the moment I’m just enjoying logging some stations, some of which have been ‘DX’.

So if you’re frustrated by local QRM and are happy to copy CW ham stations, it could be a way of combating the problem.

Another avenue I am exploring is the construction of a QRM-eliminator. This device takes as input, the main receiving antenna and a ‘noise’ antenna. The circuitry of the eliminator then ‘hears’ the noise signal and produces an anti-phase output, which has the effect of cancelling this noise. This of course, only works for none-white noise sources. This project will have to wait until the warmer weather as my garage workshop has no heating.

The following are the stations I have logged over the last few days. Some I have been very pleased to get in the log book.

Til next time, keep listening.

LOGS

40m F8FAZ, SP9MQA, TA1C/2, OL70DG, 9A2AJ,IZ0VP, NY2PO, E73AA, YU7QA, OL70DG

30m SD400SU

20m T6AA

SOLAR MINIMUM CONDITIONS ARE IN EFFECT

Very Quiet Sun

Solar Minimum, how can we miss you if you won’t go away? Sunspots have disappeared, leaving the sun as blank as a billiard ball. This is how the sun has looked for past 12 consecutive days:


Above: The solar disk on Jan. 15, 2021, photographed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

Without sunspots, the sun’s X-ray output has flatlined, and the chance of strong flares has plummeted to less than 1%. Solar activity is very low.

The return of Solar Minimum is only temporary. New Solar Cycle 25 is well underway, and only last month the sun was peppered with spots every day. Young solar cycles often “take a break” as they gather energy for the ascent to Solar Max. Indeed, new sunspots might be just around the corner.

OCFD experiment

Homebrew Off Centre Fed Dipole

I’ve used a 66′ doublet for a couple of years now, fed with 450 ohm twin feeder. However, I’ve noticed recently that pickup from QRM has increased. Balanced antennas should be just as immune to interference pickup as coax fed antennas, but only if its properly balanced. When I put it up I just added two lengths of 33′ wire but didn’t do any cutting/checking to see if this was exact. Also, the doublet was used as an inverted V and the twin feeder had to run near the house (no other route). So I decided I would try a OCFD (Off Centre Fed Dipole) again. Last time I built one, I fed it with 300 ohm feeder and it worked OK. This time, I built with the standard 22’/44′ wire into a 4:1 balun. This is designed for 7-30Mhz operation. To include 80m, the lengths need to be doubled. This is then fed with coax. About 10′ down from the balun, I formed an unun (unbalanced-unbalanced), sometimes called a 1:1 balun. This is usually used to prevent common-mode currents on the coax feeder. In my case, where I predominantly listen, I figured it will also help to reduce QRM. This is just an assumption.

To mount the 4:1 balun box, which is just a small ‘tupperware’ container, and bring in the 2 ends of wire, I cut a t-shaped piece of upvc I left over from a cladding job. This stuff is easy to cut to any shape and appears to be RF proof. Also, its uv proof too (well for about 25 years!). The coax is also secured to the long part of the T before entering the balun box. The T-piece was the tye-wrapped to a short piece of 20mm pvc pipe. I have a 5m extending decorators pole, so I secured the pipe to the tope of this using, you guessed it, Tye-wraps. The pole was secured to a fence with bungee cords, about 40′ from the house and the coax run to the house and in through the window. I directly connected it to the FT-450D. Both antenna wires sloped down to bushes either side, so ends were about 5′ above ground.

Although I seldom transmit of the HF bands, the first thing I tried was to see if the built-in autotuner would work. On all bands 40-6m, the autu tuner worked. So in the event I ever get the urge to TX again, I know it will tune up OK.

General listening followed on both ham bands and broadcast bands over the next 7 days. The QRM is definitely down, even in the sub 5Mhz region where before it was excessive. I’ve logged all the usual broadcast stations with ease, along with many hams on 6m (lot of E’s openings at the moment), 10m and 20m. This antenna is a keeper!

The next stage is to move it from the pole to the usual place on the gable end of the house. This was the plan for the latter half of this week. Well, 28+ degree heat kept me from doing that. The next couple of days is going to be windy, now its cooled off, so hopefully after that I can get it up in the air. Once this is achieved, I shall report back results.

Can I recommend the OCFD? Most certainly. The cost to me was zilch, as I had everything, including the FT-140 toroid for the balun (good junk box!)

Some experiments with the W3EDP antenna

I love mucking about with antennas, especially ones that may be useful for out-and-about use to get away from the scourge of suburban RFI.

I’ve looked at the W3EDP a number of times, and rejected it for home use, as being essentially an unbalanced antenna, it is prone to noise pickup. Not one to use at home, but, it is easy to make and sling up. I decided to put one together, using 300 ohm feeder and 67′ of wire as described in the article: W3EDP antenna using that described under the ‘new W3EDP’. I used a terminal block to connect the feeder and wire and housed these in a’tupperware’. box. This part I tie wrapped to the top of a 5m roach pole and set up in my garden, the roach pole bungee strapped to the swing seat! I chose this part of my garden as it is the furthest point from the house (about 40′. The 67′ of wire I sloped down to a hedge at the other end of the garden. I coupled the feeder to my Tecsun PL-660 via a homebrew Z-match atu. The design of the W3EDP at the site mentioned above specifies a 4:1 balun to transform the feeder to coax but at the moment I have no toroids to construct the balun. The pictures below show the roach pole with the connection box and the second my listening set up.

Results were very encouraging and resulted in the following logs over a 2 hour period:

9310 Khz Thailand VOA Deewa Radio 14:52 UTC Pashto service, discussion SINPO: 33333 2020-05-08

15245 Khz North Korea V O Korea 14:53 UTC German service SINPO: 32233 2020-05-08

15255 Khz Thailand RFE 14:54 UTC Turkmen service SINPO: 43233 2020-05-08

9425 Khz North Korea V O Korea 15:45 UTC Music SINPO: 43333 2020-05-08

9445 Khz Uzbekistan AWR 15:46 UTC Kannada service SINPO: 32222 2020-05-08

9515 Khz South Korea KBS World Radio 15:48 UTC English. Music and chat. Parallel on 9630 SINPO: 33233 2020-05-08

9590 Khz Romania RRI 16:00 UTC Romanian service SINPO: 44444 2020-05-08

9635 Khz Mali R Mali 16:05 UTC Arabic. SINPO: 32222 2020-05-08

9740 Khz South Korea KBS World Radio 16:11 UTC Korean service SINPO: 32233 2020-05-08

9900 Khz Tajikistan BBCWS 16:14 UTC Korean SINPO: 22222 2020-05-08

9920 Khz Uzbekistan RFE 16:15 UTC Uzbek. Discussion SINPO: 43344 2020-05-08

9910 Khz Northern Marianas Islands RFA 16:16 UTC Korean SINPO: 32222 2020-05-08

11630 Khz China CNR17 16:18 UTC Kazakh, music SINPO: 43233 2020-05-08

11655 Khz UAE Abu Dhabi Media 16:19 UTC Afar service. Poor modulation SINPO: 32222 2020-05-08

11755 Khz Sri Lanka AWR 16:21 UTC Urdu service SINPO: 33233 2020-05-08

11910 Khz Uzbekistan Furusato No Kaze 16:23 UTC Japanese Music and chat SINPO: 32233 2020-05-08

12035 Khz Thailand VOA Deewa Radio 16;25 UTC Pashto, discussion SINPO: 43333 2020-05-08

12045 Khz Japan R Japan 16:37 UTC Japanese, discussion SINPO: 22222 2020-05-08

I also logged numerous ham stations taking part in the RSGB QSO party. Most of these were from around Europe, but logged the odd one from the states.

The following day, I lugged out a power supply and extension lead, and tried the same set up with my Yaesu FT-450D. Unfortunately, the 450, being more sensitive, managed to pick up all the local QRM so not really usable.

So, my take away from these results is: great antenna for out-and-about use. Easy to set up for use with a portable. When the house arrest is over, I am looking forward to taking this arrangement out into the mainly RFI-free countryside to see how it performs.