Ham researcher to investigate effects of solar eclipse

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

August 21 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many in the U.S. to see a total eclipse. It’s also an opportunity for a team of Virginia Tech researchers to study the effects of the eclipse onchanges in the upper atmosphere that have an impact onHF propagation and the global positioning system (GPS). Backed by research funding from NASA and the National Science foundation, the team is headed by Dr. Greg Earle, W4GDE.

The Virginia Tech team plans to gather data from a variety of sources, including radar systems, transceivers, satellites, ham radio, and GPS receivers, in order to analyze the effects of the solar eclipse on the conductive region of the atmosphere.

“Whether military radar, or consumer GPS signals, the eclipse is going to have effects on the medium that we would like to understand better, so that we can either mitigate them or use them to our advantage,” said Earle.

Here are a couple of links to news stories on the research team and the experiments:
  * Virginia Tech team prepares for special project during total solar eclipse (http://wset.com/news/local/virginia-tech-team-prepares-for-special-project-during-total-solar-eclipse)
  * Virginia Tech expert to study August solar eclipse effects on radar, ham radio,GPS (http://wtkr.com/2017/07/17/virginia-tech-expert-to-study-august-solar-eclipse-effects-on-radar-ham-radio-gps/)

Let’s party!

In conjunction with the eclipse, the HamSCI and the ARRL are sponsoring the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (http://www.hamsci.org/seqp). (SEQP). According to an article in the August 2017 issue of QST, the goal of the SEQP is to “flood the airwaves with contacts, all measured by the automated receiver networks of the Reverse Beacon Network, PSKReporter, and WSPRNet.” Once all the logs are in, researchers will analyze the data to see what effect the eclipse had on radio propagation.

A YouTube video of a presentation at Dayton on the SEQP can be found at https://youtu.be/3EviY2Cuxpo?list=PLihPo8xWmo8-xDYAtpP9BWX9QnhUoT7k4

The SEQP will run from 1400Z – 2200Z on Monday, August 21. This is well before the eclipse is due to begin on the West Coast. The reason it starts before the eclipse is to establish a baseline for radio propagation conditions.

SEQP organizers urge you to make as many contacts as you can on as many bands as you can operate. Like nearly every contest, contacts are not allowed on 60m, 30m, 17m, and 12m. CW, RTTY, and PSK31 are the preferred modes because automated receivers can record those contacts, but phone and other digital modes count, too.

An interesting twist to this contest is that, like Field Day, you can earn a number of bonus points, including:
  * Operating outdoors (100 points)
  * Operating in a public place (100 points)
  * Operating a wide-band automated receiver at your station (100 points)

Hams have had a long history of supporting scientific research. They provided communications for some of the early polar explorations and listened for Sputnik as it flew overhead. The Solar Eclipse QSO Party continues this tradition, and it’s going to be a lot of fun as well. Visit the HamSCI website (http://www.hamsci.org/seqp) for more information.

-Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, blogs about amateur radio at KB6NU.Com, and is the author of the “No Nonsense” amateur radio license study guides and the CW Geek’s Guide to Having Fun With Morse Code.” You can reach him by emailing cwgeek@kb6nu.com.

A New Tradition for Field Day?

A New Tradition for Field Day?

Summer is a great time to clear out your shack and help others fill theirs!
This year at the SLVARC/SCCARC Field Day we had a ‘Free Table’ of books, cables, antennas, wall warts, radios and various additional donations.

Bill AF6OH made a generous car load donation to the Field Day event as a part of his early summer cleaning.

What did this allow our combined Filed Day event to achieve?

1) Books and handouts for the GOTA station and other advanced topics. New or potential hams got to draw first from a variety of interesting beginning books on Antennas, operation, and general knowledge. Advanced publications helped others investigate in detail many aspects of design theory as well.
2) Cables and Hardware were available for all hams attending field day. This allowed some folks to fill out their home station needs, try out some new interest, or just fill out their ARES go-kits.
3) Some of the cables and hardware even found their way into action on Field Day!!

It was great to see the smiles, excitement, and gratuity from everyone who found a treasure from Bill’s generous donations. In fact, it encouraged a few other folks to pitch into the table full of ham related (and some not) items. Thanks to all who supported this first time ‘Free Table’ event.

It is with great thanks and encouragement that it is recommended to continue this new tradition next year! If so, please be aware that this is not an E-Waste dumping area. Please supply mostly functioning equipment and be prepared Sunday to retrieve your donations to help with site cleanup.

Field Day now Behind Us

2017 Field Day is now behind us. I want personally thank all of you that volunteered to assemble,

 take down operate, and get it on the air. There are more participants than I can thank. But I would

especially like to give extra Kudos to Kerry K3RRY, for the fantastic job contacting the Cal Fire Dept

For permission to use the facility and many other jobs including making sure the digital station

 trailer was towed and put in place.

 A very special thanks to Angela KM6BHX and her staff for the extraordinary job she and the  food

crew set up the dining for us and guests making sure we were well fed and had plenty of water. It

should be remembered for many years.

Also special thanks to Glen KG0T ,Duane K6TS and Craig N6SBNwho made trips to Aptos ,  And Santa

Cruz to bring the station trailers to the site. It was extra effort for them. I also want to thank the captains

and the teams for getting each of the stations on the air in about 4 hours after a late star.

Do to my advancing senior years, I will consult only if if this club participates in the event next year.

Well done San Lorenzo Valley  and Santa Cruz Radio Clubs.

JV K6HJU Chief Instigator  2017 Field Day

 Notes from the CAKE meeting  Cake Notes July 8, 2017

This was a smaller group than usual which was no obstacle to stimulating conversation among Glen KG0T,Peter K6UNO, Read N1WC and Ron W6WO.  The session began with discussing a potential visit to the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda on July 22. An email message via he K6BJ reflector was recently posted which described the event and Ron would like to hear from anyone with questions or interest in a group trip. History continued to dominate our discussions.

A newspaper article was recently published describing the historic radio site to become preserved by the City of Palo Alto. We discussed other possible visits including one to the US Navy ship Hornet in SFO and the Marconi site in the Pt Reys area now part of the State Park. Rangers there had exhibited some WWII items at Pacificon in the past which included the famous RCA  AR88. They were shipped to England at the beginning of WWII and became the radio of choice for monitoring enemy traffic.

Ron goes mysty eyes at the very mention of this HF receiver and purchased one for sale about 10 years ago. Peter asked about its condition and in short,  it required a complete overhaul. Rene K6XW (an avid collector of WWII radios) stepped in and completely overhauled the complex spring-loaded gear box. Peter mentioned he had a 51-S1 which needed attention and I said that Rene (rene@elecraft.com) would be someone to contact. We learned that Bob had also found are rare Collins item lately
and we look forward to hearing more about it.

We shifted to discussing the evolution of computers and Glen described his early experience that has grown, making him our go-to person. He commented the latest uprocessors had more power than Eniac.  Group marveled at the density of memory now available on flash drives. Reed mentioned that these are one of most faked items to be found on EBay. Ron recalled being present at the introduction of the 4004. Other noteworthy items were the HP 2116 mini, the Heathkit analog computer kit and a kit for building an
8080 that required a cpu chip costing $300

We can never hold a CAKE session without an antenna topic Glen had heard one idea was to include switches in a dipole that could be operated by air piped to them via small tubes. Ron commented that it sounded more medical than radio. The video of Field Day antennas from Bob’s (K6XX) drone was
mentioned as a new feature of FD which no doubt will be repeated.

So as you see this was a rather unusual session but much fun as always.

Alameda on the 22nd Leaders or other trips anyone ?


Ron W6WO


Ionospheric Highways
One lane or two

Having spent >60 years as a relatively ignorant HF user of the Ionosphere I recently decided it was time for self-improvement. My re-education began stimulated by reading some old publications of the NorCal QRP Club (long may it survive and prosper). The article that captured my attention was included in the October 17 1998 Pacificon proceedings; entitled QRP DX’ing and Propagation Predictions by Ade Weiss W0RSP . The Pedersen mode of propagation was particularly interesting as it was described as being asymmetrical. Asymmetrical/non-reciprocal incidents have been reported for many decades and it seemed appropriate to make these my focus.

The first question to be answered is; do non-reciprocal paths actually exist? If yes obviously the followup questions would be What When and How. I decided to begin with information published in professional and research circles. A book entitled “Ionospheric Radio Communications” has remained neglected on my shelf for many years so was clearlly a place to start. The book is a collection of papers published in the proceedings of a NATO Institute conference in 1967, it was principally concerned with communications in the Arctic (no prizes for understanding why). Four papers on LF and VLF communications were included which are of topical interest due to anticipated Amateur allocations.

Nine papers and a summary of discussions on HF were included. One paper had a section on levels of signals travelling in opposite directions. Now when this subject comes up the common reaction is the ionosphere behaves as a true reflector where anglesof incidence and relection are equal, and thus communications between two points would be reciprocal. However the paper contained the conclusion that “Most ionospheric paths are non-reciprocal” due only to interactions with the earth’s magnetic field. I wondered if communications at high lattitudes might be a special case. It is hard to dig deeper into this subject and proving or disproving this mode behavior becomes a real challenge.

After some rather tedious reading I realized that the subject involved many dimensions includng the sun, ray angles, polarization, frequencies, velocity, orientation of the magnetic field, ionosphere density etc. It became clear that relevant computer software would be essential therefor time to seek guidance from some subject matter experts such is Carl Leutzelschwab K9LA. Carl is a true expert and prolific educator. He has studied the subject of asymmetry and propagation in general for several years and is willing to share his findings- including a presentation via Skype at a future Club meeting.

Carl’s site www.k9la.us is a treasure trove of information on propagation,his monthly featured articles are consise and most informative. The topic for Feb 15 2015 was enttiled “One-way propagation” which reported on the investigation of a specific example however no asymmetry was found.

The May 2017 feature is entitled 3DThinking. The terms Ordinary and Extraordinary Waves were included which are believed to have a direct bearing on asymmetry. A reported path between Thailand and Germany was investigated. The incredible computational power of Proplab Pro V3 was frankly an eye-opener. However the investigation concluded that skewing of the waves did not cause assymetry and that “The fat lady has yet to sing”.

I strongly believe that Carl and a few other talented individuals will not let this rest as incidents keep showing up.

Ron W6WO June 9 2017

How to Copy CW in Your Head

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

The second most common question that I get about CW is, “How do I learn to copy in my head?” When I get this question, I give, what to some, is a very unsatisfying answer. One day, I just went cold turkey. I put down the pencil and paper and never copied letter-by-letter ever again.

Carlo Consoli, IK0YGJ, author of Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy (http://www.qsl.net/ik0ygj/enu/ZART_r20101008m.pdf), says that what operators need to do is to program themselves to copy in their heads. He counsels operators to practice relaxation and visualization exercises. Visualize yourself as a high-speed operator, and maybe one day you will be one.

This approach seems to have worked for Consoli. He is a member of the Very High Speed Club (VHSC), First Class Operator’s Club (FOC), and has been clocked at copying over 70 wpm. I’m not sure that this is really going to work for everyone, though.

Another approach is touted by Carl, N7AGK. On his website, Carl writes, “I have created a program to assist you in learning to copy Morse code in your head. Everything you need will be contained on a single USB flashdrive that I will provide to you. In the program there are audio Morse code presentations followed by a visual display. The visual display shows the information in large print and upper case letters. The visual display verifies that you have received the Morse code correctly.” Carl’s program costs $20 and is available from n7agk.com.

Zeb, HB9FXW, has created a free web application called Seiuchy (http://www.kb6nu.com/let-walrus-help-copy-head/) to help people learn head copying. Seiuchy, which Zeb says is Japanese for walrus, simulates on-air contacts. The trick to using this app is that instead of copying exactly whats sent, you only copy the most important bit of information. The idea is that if you train yourself to do this, then you can concentrate on what’s important rather than getting bogged down in copying what’s not important.

A different take on head copy was sent in by one of my blog readers, Bill, W3MSH. He wrote, “I was a CW op for many years and discovered something fascinating. I first began to hear “dots and dashes”, then letters, words, sentences and at 35+ wpm, thoughts in my head.”

I think Bill may have hit the nail on the head with this comment. I like the idea that copying code in your head is more akin to generating thoughts than it is to copying individual characters or words. Everybody talks about how getting faster is about moving from copying individual characters to copying words to copying entire sentences. I’ve never thought of it that way, although I was at a loss as to how to describe how I do it. I think the idea that when copying in your head, the code creates thoughts directly is a beautiful way to put it.

Isn’t that what’s happening when you talk to someone? When someone talks to me, I don’t consciously parse the sentences and then analyze them to see what was just said. It’s more of an unconscious process. The sounds being uttered are creating ideas in my head.

Shouldn’t we approach head copy in the same way? Instead of thinking about head copy as the process of writing down the characters on an internal blackboard to be read later, it should be about translating the sound of the Morse Code directly into concepts. The sounds “dah di dit…dah dah dah….dah dah dit,” should conjure up the image of a poodle or a pitbull, not the letters “D O G.”

How that translates into a program or a method for learning to copy the code in one’s head is another matter. It might be worth thinking about, though.


Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, is the author of The CW Geek’s Guide to Having Fun with Morse Code and the No Nonsense series of amateur radio study guides. When he’s not head copying on 30m, he blogs about amateur radio at KB6NU.Com



A Little Night Light Music

Don – K6GHA

I had it in my hand, the Trustee certification for a club station for NG6O arrived by mail at the last day, and minute, from the FCC. It was just in the nick-of-time to operate in the CQ Worldwide WPX CW contest, and run QRP (5 watts) where I was able to make an incredible 14,000 mile contact. And as Paul Harvey use to say, “And now, for the rest of the story”.

The Vanity Call
I got my Extra License and wanted to have my father’s old call as my primary call, I previously wrote about my desire and the process to acquire one. To recap, just think; FCC paperwork, a little luck, and persistence! A list of available vanity calls, and instructions on how to go about the process in obtaining one, is on the W5YI website (http://www.w5yi.org ) as well as the ARRL web site. Some groups charge for this service, but there are ways in which you can apply and do not have to pay for this service.

The Club Call
I had long considered obtaining a club call for contesting purpose for those unique events where a 2×1 call would be desirable. I had looked at many call signs posted and available as vanity calls. My thinking   was to apply for one that had ‘character’ as a club call. However, I could never seem to win the toss up  of a lot of folks competing for the same call.  To make sure I made a good choice, I learned more about the advantages of having a contest station call (or vanity call for that matter). Something to consider in contesting is how long it takes to send and   receive the exchange in a contest, for both CW and Phone operation. The shorter, and better sounding,   has advantages. Finding a call that sounds good generally contains rhythm elements. They are based in  time, spacing, and sound. Both of the ‘Time’ and ‘Sound’ elements make up what is referred to as the Relative Weighting of a call. In CW the number of dots and dashes a letter takes to send [like E = Dit (1)  or Y = Dah Dit Dah Dah (4)], and in Phone ops it measures the phonetic weight of the call (like N = NO-VEM-BER = 3). You add these all up for a call sign, and you have its Weight. A distinctive call stands out for its clarity, uniqueness, and brevity. In a contest, those criteria play a big role in speed, ability to copy,  or be picked out from a pile-up. To check the weight of your current call you can query your call  
(LookUp) on the AE7Q website: http://www.ae7q.com/query/. The page will take your call and return its results in the upper right corner showing both the Phonetic and Morse weight.   Club calls are also a bit different in that there are a number of FCC rules and regulations about obtaining  and managing one (and only one per licensed operator, this is in FCC 97.5 section 2, amended in 2010).  The Club Call is assigned to a licensed operator in the capacity as Trustee. With it are implied  responsibilities in forming a club, and maintaining correct records, meeting minutes, and operation.  More about club calls and trustee responsibilities, paperwork, and step-by-step application processes
can be found at: http://www.arrl.org/club-call-signs and http://www.w5yi.org/page.php?id=203

The Legacy
In a majority of instances club trustees, and their clubs, dissolve upon their passing (SK) of the owner. Without renewal or trustee transfer, the club call is recycled through the vanity process. In my case, I was notified of an availability of a club call. I decided that its legacy purpose should continue and reflect the intent envisioned by the founder. I felt becoming the trustee for this call was more appropriate than letting the call be released back into the general population. Through email, I contacted the XYL of SK Ham, and worked with her to fill out the required FCC form 605-C. The completion and submission is tedious for getting approval, in this case it included; Change of Trustee request, change of club address,
change of club name, a renewal of the license, recording meeting minutes, and establishing a new board of directors (real licensed folks). This took a few weeks to work through the red tape, and insure all forms and documents were in order for the FCC. Then the wait began for the approval.

The Event
My home mail arrives generally about 3pm. This particular Friday’s it included my FCC authorization  paperwork as the new Trustee of the new Club Call Sign NG6O. The clubs group is renamed to honor the  SK, and is now known as the Fearless Radio Operating Group (FROG). I found myself pretty excited, until  I realize that the CQ Worldwide WPX contest is starting at 5pm, in just a minutes. In order to use the  new club call for this contest I had some configuration changes to make in the N1MM+ logging software  to ensure that correct exchange information is sent. A bit of testing, and the start of the contest  happens. Based on my schedule and limited time to operate, a snap decision for power choice (QRP, 5  watts or less), band (20 meters only), and class (Assisted to spot rare DX stations), I make my choice for  the contest.
Ok…, 5 watts QRP from the west coast may not be all that great of a choice for super DXing in contest  situations, especially with the East Coast Wall of operators, and a majority of contesters running either  Low Power (100W) or High Power (1500W), but as it happens that particular Friday night was some of  the best propagation to Europe in quite a while. My expectations were low. However, even with my  time limited and power, I was amazed at the addictive fun of making the best from a challenging choice. Each contact was well earned. 45 countries, 24 CQ Zones, 178 QSO’s (contacts) logged for the contest  (the majority on Friday night), and the one monster long distant contact to North Sulawesi Indonesia.  Thank you to the operator at the other end for staying with my repeated calls, and QSO clarifications.  Those were good ears at 14,000 miles away. Here’s a map of some of my contacts.
Map courtesy of (http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/ ) phpQW Tool Log Analysis
14,000 miles on the power of a night light.  

And as Paul would say, “And now you know the rest of the story”!
My many thanks and continued appreciation go to family and Ham friends of the previous club station  owner of NG6O. I hope to represent well in future contests, and keep the call on the air for many years.

Non-reciprocal paths via the ionosphere at HF

During a discussion on Pedersen rays at a recent CAKE meeting it was claimed these were “asymmetrical” paths and an explanation was needed.  

We all know that much of our hobby depends on the ionosphere to return our transmitted signals back to earth and we may tend to think in terms of mirror-like reflections. Nothing could be further from the truth as the ionosphere is an unstable mix of charged particles and gases.It has both regular and irregular behavior.

Although the ionosphere was key to commercial world-wide radio communication from around the 1930s the great deal of knowledge accumulated was practical rather than scientific. The science of the Ionospheric began sometime around the 1950s with the invention of atmospheric sounders. Scientific studies were intensified in the 1960s for security reasons when understanding propagation in high northern lattitudes became especially important. Hang on I will answer the question soon HI

In 1967, NATO held a conference on Ionospheric communications with a focus of the Arctic and the conference proceedings has a section on HF entitled The difference in levels of signals travelling in opposite directions. The following three statements were selected from that section:-
1.    Paths between two antennas can be non-reciprocal but this is NOT due to differences in ray path attenuation or phase. On the basis of ray theory these are the same for signals travelling in either direction.
2.    The reciprocity or non reciprocity arrises only because of interaction of the upward or downward waves with the antennas at the ends and the earths magnetic field.
3.     A reciprocal path is formed between linearly polarized antennas (most amateur antennas) if they are both polarized in, or perpendicular to, the earths magnetic field otherwise the path can be non-reciprocal.
The section reached the conclusion that “most ionospheric paths are non-reciprocal with the result that there can be large instantaneous differences in the levels of signals travelling in opposite directions.”

To go beyond that statement and understand the mode and practical implications one needs to look into the phemomena of the ionosphere converting an incoming plane polarized wave into two outgoing circularly polarized waves known as O ordinary and X extraordinary.  

That’s all for now
Ron W6WO

Geo Magnetic Storms

Geo Magnetic storm

Among the events most disruptive to HF communications are geomagnetic storms.which are caused by major bursts of radiation and particles from the sun. When these bursts arrive at the earth they disturb our magnetic field which results in increased noise and changes to the composition of the ionosphere.

The folowing graph was published in the Pacificon QRP Forum Oct 17 1998. The comprehensive article is credited to Paul Harden NA5N


Browsing Short Skip

If you are ever confined to barracks for more than a few days life can become rather dull. My recipe is to look back at past issues of Short Skip, so well archived by our indispensable producer Ron K6EXT. What you
will find amply shows the vitality and diversity of our Club and I found it exhilarating. Here’s an idea -spend some time browsing, select one item that you really enjoyed then let Ron know the title and issue. Ron may have room for it to be re-issued. I was curious to determine when the first CAKE notes showed up and found this in the March 2002 issue. We have been meeting bi-weekly from then .
73 Ron W6WO

For the new members of our club, Short Skip was the printed newsletter for the SCCARC. On our website K6BJ.ORG under “archive” you will find PDF copies of the printed Short Skip newsletter from 1999 to 2015.
73 K6EXT