Yeah, It’s 2020


This year has been … um … interesting, and it looks as if the summer and early autumn may bring us more intriguing events.

I’m an amateur radio operator. Many of us provide backup communications support for government agencies and NGOs (like the Red Cross and Salvation Army) during natural disasters. One of the agencies we support is the National Hurricane Center through the Hurricane Watch Net. I received an email yesterday that contained the following:

Long-range forecasts for the 2020 Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which begins on June 1 and extends until November 30, anticipate above-normal activity. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) 2020 outlook calls for a season about 140% more active than average, with four Category 3 to Category 5 hurricanes. The 2019 season saw three major hurricanes (out of six).

“The above-average prediction is largely due to the hot Atlantic and Caribbean waters and lack of a substantial El Niño in the Pacific,” the NHC explained, noting that the combination of a busy hurricane season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could create a nightmare scenario for affected areas. FEMA and local emergency management agencies are already issuing COVID-19 guidelines for hurricane shelters, which include face masks and social distancing.

Given the way 2020 has gone so far, …

Field Day


Every year, ham radio operators in the U. S. and Canada participate in a 24-hour long event called Field Day on the fourth weekend in June. Many actually set up temporary portable stations, which is what my son Will (KB3GHE) and I will be doing. We’ll be operating using my call sign (W3JJH). If you’re a ham, listen for us, most likely on 20 m phone or CW. Listen carefully, we’ll be a QRP station.argonaut_vi

If you’re not a ham and are interested in amateur radio, there’s probably a Field Day operation set up where you can visit near you if you’re in the U. S. or Canada. A site locator that shows the locations of many sites can be found at the first link above. The fun begins at 1800 UTC. That’s 2 pm ET.

UPDATE—And we’re on the air with a simple portable rig.IMG_0388

Field Day 2015


On the fourth full weekend of June each year, many ham radio operators in the U. S. and Canada spend the 24-hour period beginning at 1800 UTC on Saturday operating in the field. We refer to it as Field Day. The event began in the ’30s as a way for amateur radio operators to practice operating under emergency conditions. There’s still a bit of that in the event, but for many of us it’s become a social event as well. And for those of us who operate from a public space, it’s a chance to show off our hobby to our neighbors.

The Carroll County Amateur Radio Club will be operating from the Carnival Grounds at the Gamber Volunteer Fire Company on MD 32. If you’d like to learn more about ham radio, stop by for a visit. We will have several stations on the air communicating with other amateur operators all over North America using voice and data modes as well as good old-fashioned Morse code.

I’ll be spending most of my time for the next couple of days focused on this event. Blogging may be a bit sparse.

The Eagle Has Landed


eagleAstronomy isn’t my only hobby. I’m a ham radio operator too. I enjoy building my own equipment, but I also use store-bought radios. I’ve wanted to get my hands on a TenTec Eagle ever since I played with one in the demo room at the factory in Sevierville, Tennessee. The UPS man delivered mine this afternoon.

Expect a review soon.

Sunspots


One of my hobbies is amateur radio, and one of the things that many of us ham radio geeks keep an eye on is sunspots. Sunspots are darker, cooler regions on the Sun created by intense magnetic fields breaking through the surface. As that solar activity increases, the Sun’s effect on the Earth’s ionosphere generally improves the propagation of shortwave radio signals. The Sun showed a substantial increase in sunspots over the first part of this month. This movie and still (assembled from data taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory) show the Sun in filtered white light. It’s dotted with more and larger sunspots than we have seen for quite a while, and I’ve noticed improved radio propagation, occasionally extending to VHF bands. The Sun is supposed to have passed the peak for this 11-year sunspot cycle, but it will still be producing more sunspots and solar storms during the rest of this solar cycle.

[youtube http://youtu.be/B5mEnfusn4Q]

Video Credit: NASA

Ham Radio and Juno


Since I’m featuring amateur radio this weekend, let’s recycle this bit of Internet Astronomy:

Saying, “Hi,” to Juno

During its recent flyby of Earth, the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft listened for a communication from amateur radio operators transmitting from locations around the world. This video depicts the results.

Video Credit: NASA

BTW, HI HI (di-di-di-dit/di-dit  di-di-di-dit/di-dit) is Morse code slang for laughter.

73 de W3JJH

Field Day So Far


FD 2014-1The Carroll County Amateur Radio Club is operating a multi-transmitter Field Day site. We have two stations operating phone (ham talk for “voice”), one operating CW (ham talk for “Morse code”), one operating digital modes (ham talk for “text”), and one operating via amateur radio satellites.

The picture at the left shows Curt WB8YYY operating my low-powered CW rig. His left hand is adjusting the tuning knob. The laptop is used to log the contacts with other stations and to log the radio settings. His telegraph key is just out of the frame on the right.

Some years, the club goes all out to score the most points we can. This year, Field Day is laid back. At around 6:30 this evening, we stopped operating and had a picnic. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors.

Packing Up for Field Day


ArgonautVIMost years, I take a fairly extensive kit of equipment to our ham radio club’s Field Day site. This year, I’m taking a minimalist approach. Although U. S. amateur radio operators are allowed to operate with transmitter output power up to 1500 W in most cases and most Field Day operators use radio in the 100 W range, I’ll be using a 10 W rig and small portable antenna.

I enjoy the challenge of low-power operation. When propagation conditions are good, very little power is required to communicate around the world. I’ve talked with KC4AAA, the amateur radio station at Amundsen Scott Research Station at the South Pole using a transmitter power of 5 W.

I’ll be blogging some from the Field Day site, but non-ham-radio blogging is likely to be sparse this weekend.

73 de W3JJH

Things I’ve Done


One of my hobbies is amateur radio. I’ve been interested in radio since I was a kid, but when my friends were getting their ham licenses back in the ’60s, I got a First Class commercial license. While they played with 75 W Heathkit DX-40s, I was running a 50,000 W Continental Electronics 317C at WLAC.

I never got into amateur radio as a personal hobby until my son William took an interest. We took our licensing exams together. Since 1998, I’ve been licensed as W3JJH. William and I have had the opportunity to get involved in community service as ham radio operators. For example, during Hurricane Isabel, we were the radio operators at the Alternate Emergency Operations Center for our county and ran the net control station for the backup communications radio net. Emergency planners sometimes forget the resource they have in volunteer ham operators. Our county did once, and decided they could rely on cell phones for backup. The tornado hit the cell tower.

Field day 2003One of the other things that William and I do together each year is participate in Field Day. During that event, hams from all over the U. S. and Canada set up portable stations in the field and practice handling brief message traffic. It started in the ’30s as an emergency drill. Now, it’s as much a social event. The picture at the left shows me during Field Day 2003 operating a station that sends text-based traffic.

Amateur radio is a multi-faceted hobby. My main interest these days is trying communicate around the world using as little power as possible and designing and building as much of my equipment as possible. The ham buzzwords for that are QRP and homebrew.

UPDATE—Back in the ’60s, you had to be at least 18 to use a CB radio. My First Class commercial license allowed me to legally repair a CB radio before it was legal for me to use one.

Go figure.

CQ Field Day, This is K3PZN, 8 Alpha Maryland DC


I’ll participating in Field Day for the next 24 hours with the Carroll County Amateur Radio Club. (Scroll down on the Home page for more info about Field Day.) K3PZN is the Club’s call sign. 8A is the category of our Field Day operation—8 transmitters on different bands or modes of operation, in the field, with emergency power. Maryland DC (MDC) is our ARRL Section.

Normal blogging will resume sometime after 2 pm ET on Sunday. Until then …

CQ Field Day, This is Kilo Three Papa Zulu November, Eight Alpha Mike Delta Charlie!

Set Up for Field Day, Part Two


Will (KB3GHE), Curt (WB8YYY), and Pete (W3GVX) did most of the work putting up an Army surplus AB-155/U 40 ft mast to support the center of an 80 m inverted-vee antenna that will be used for the 80 m voice station I will be captaining during Field Day.

Our club, the Carroll County Amateur Radio Club, will be operating voice stations simultaneously on the 80 m, 40 m, 20 m, 15 m, 10 m, and 6 m amateur bands as well as a couple of Morse code stations that will moving among those bands as conditions change.

If you’d like to learn more about ham radio, stop by for a visit. We’ll be operating on the carnival grounds of the Gamber Volunteer Fire Company at the corner of Highway 32 and Niner Road. The fun runs from 2 pm Saturday to 2 pm Sunday.

Getting Ready for Field Day


PrintOn the fourth full weekend of June each year, many ham radio operators in the U. S. and Canada spend the 24-hour period beginning at 1800 UTC on Saturday operating in the field. We refer to it as Field Day. The event began in the ’30s as a way for amateur radio operators to practice operating under emergency conditions. There’s still a bit of that in the event, but for many of us it’s become a social event as well. And for those of us who operate from a public space, it’s a chance to show off our hobby to our neighbors.

The Carroll County Amateur Radio Club will be operating from the Carnival Grounds at the Gamber Volunteer Fire Company. If you’d like to learn more about ham radio, stop by for a visit. We will have several stations on the air communicating with other amateur operators all over North America using voice and data modes as well as good old-fashioned Morse code.

Meanwhile, I need to finish packing the gear I’m bringing and set up my solar array to top off the charge in some batteries.

Gimme Shelter


I’m back from my shift as net control operator for the amateur radio support for the emergency services here in our county. Power has been restored in most areas, so people who have a place to go are returning home, and everything is being consolidated at one shelter.  Although I was the net control operator, I was at one of the shelters rather than the County Emergency Operations Center.

During the slack times, I visited with the deputies stationed at the shelter. They said that they had all received an email about my threatened SWATting. I promised that if they were called tomorrow night per the threat, I would save some Halloween candy for them.

Off to Work On The Air


We’ve made it through the storm with no damage and no loss of electricity. My son and I have been participating in the local emergency communications net run by amateur radio operators who are members of ARES. Some of operators were deployed to places such as the County Emergency Operations Center and various Red Cross shelters. Others were at home ready to go where needed. Today, it’s my turn to work at one of the shelters.

A few years ago, a County bureaucrat suggested that the communications backup we ham radio operators provide was unnecessary because of cell phones. Then a tornado took out a cell tower.

Solar Flare


The Sun just threw a filament. At the end of last month, a long standing solar filament suddenly erupted producing an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The filament had been held up for days by the Sun’s magnetic field, and the timing of the eruption was unexpected. The resulting explosion shot electrons and ions outward, some of which arrived at Earth three days later and smacked into Earth’s magnetosphere. The result was visible as aurorae. Loops of plasma surrounding an active region can be seen above the erupting filament in this ultraviolet image taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

If you missed that auroral display, don’t worry. Over the next two years, the Sun will be experiencing a solar maximum of activity which promises to produce more CMEs that induce more Earthly auroras. The active Sun will also improve HF and low VHF propagation, much to the pleasure of ham radio operators like me.

Image Credit: NASA

CQ FD DE W3JJH 1B NTX


For those of you who aren’t ham radio operators, the 24 hours beginning at 1800 UTC today are Field Day. Field Day is an annual event during which amateur radio operators set up at sites away from their normal stations to practice working under emergency conditions. It’s also a great excuse for a social event for many local ham clubs.

This year is the first time that I’m not operating with my home club, the Carroll County Amateur Radio Club. I’m on the road in route to DFW. I do have a small portable rig with me, so CQ Field Day, this is Whiskey Three Julliet Juliet Hotel One Bravo North Texas.