HAMNET Report 17th January 2021

Greg Mossop G0DUB has announced that the next virtual meeting for Emergency Communications Co-Ordinators in IARU region 1 will be held at 13h00 UTC on Saturday the 27th of February. Cisco Webex will be the portal used, and Greg envisions, on the agenda so far, a review of recent events, a discussion of the value of exercises as opposed to regular nets, and whether Region 1 should hold a public Webex conference if Friedrichshafen is again cancelled this year. There is another 6 weeks to this date, so plenty of time for additional items for discussion to be added.

The first event on HAMNET’s events calendar for 2021 in the Western Cape has been cancelled. The 99er Cycle Tour, a sponsored 100km race to raise funds for charity in and around Durbanville, due to take place on the 13th February, was reluctantly cancelled by the organizers the day after our President announced the continuation of level three lockdown regulations until the 15th of February. This is the correct decision to take, and your writer wonders whether the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Two Oceans Marathon down here in the next few months will go the same way. To be completely safe, all these events should actually be cancelled proactively and not regretted after they have had super-spreader effects on the province. As things stand now, the Comrades Marathon has a slightly better chance of taking place, particularly if the roll-out of vaccines has proceeded well. We wait to see how the pandemic unfolds further. However, we do note that the US hams have decided to cancel the Dayton Hamvention in May, because of the likelihood that they will not have got themselves out of Covid-19 trouble by then.

On the weather front, parts of the Karoo as well as most of the northern provinces of South Africa have been receiving heavy downpours resulting in flash-flooding of rivers, and filling of pans, where drought has been the norm for years. HAMNET records its willingness to be put into service if communities are threatened by these floods, and Divisional Directors monitor the situation in their areas carefully.

In case you thought there was nothing to do during the lockdown and with poor propagation conditions in 2020, Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that an Icelandic amateur Billi Jonsson, TF5B, made 30,013 contacts with 156 DXCC entities during 2020, using the mode FT8. Using the MFSK protocol, most of his contacts were on 30m, 8729 in fact, with 40, 20 and 17m each providing about 5200 contacts. There were of course others, to make up the total of 30000. Europe supplied the most replies, followed by North America, Asia, Africa, South America and the Pacific Ocean countries, in that order. Well done Billi! It seems that he had a lot of time on his hands in 2020.

The Millenium Post reports from Kolkata in India that, in a bid to help people access information when phones and conventional broadcast systems fail during natural calamity, Ham radio operators have installed amateur radio satellite communications (using Qatar OSCAR-100 – the first geostationary amateur radio transponder) at Ganga Sagar Island.

“Through this system, we will be able to send live video, photos and data of the situation after the natural disaster anywhere and help can also be sought by making a voice call,” said Ambarish Nag Biswas, custodian and secretary of West Bengal Radio Club (WBRC), an organisation of ham radio enthusiasts in the state. He reiterated that people will be able to send to and receive signals from QO-100, installed in space 36,000 km from the earth, even when mobile phones, telephones and the internet stop working.

Saman Javed, writing in Unilad on Wednesday, says that a NASA spacecraft orbiting Jupiter has reportedly detected a mysterious radio signal from one of the planet’s moons.

The signal, which was detected by NASA’s Juno space probe, came from the moon Ganymede.  The emission, which lasted approximately five seconds, is a first-time detection from the moon.

A NASA ambassador, Patrick Wiggins from Utah, was quick to clarify that the signal was caused by electrons, not aliens.

‘It’s not E.T,’ Wiggins told local news outlet KTVX, which first reported the discovery. ‘It’s more of a natural function,’ he added.

According to the publication, the signal was most likely caused by electrons oscillating at a lower rate than at which they spin, amplifying radio waves. At the time of detection, Juno was flying by at a speedy 111,847mph.

This process was also behind similar signals coming from Jupiter as detected by Juno in 2017. Juno’s mission is to study how the planet Jupiter formed and how it evolved.

‘Juno observes Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields, atmospheric dynamics and composition, and evolution,’ NASA said.

At the time of the latest detection, Juno was travelling across the polar region of Jupiter, where magnetic field lines connect to Ganymede. The signal is known to scientists as a ‘decametric radio emission’.

Jupiter’s radio emissions were first discovered in 1955. Since then, scientists have been able to make more sense of how the signals work.

‘A member of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society once built an amateur radio telescope that could detect the electromagnetic radiation from Jupiter,’ Wiggins said.

In 2018, scientists revealed they had observed ‘extraordinary’ electromagnetic waves coming from Ganymede. The waves, also known as chorus waves, were spotted by NASA’s Galileo Probe spacecraft, which was tasked with the mission of observing Jupiter’s wave environment.

‘It’s a really surprising and puzzling observation showing that a moon with a magnetic field can create such a tremendous intensification in the power of waves,’ Yuri Shprits, the lead author of the study, told The Independent at the time.

Scientists believe that the waves are partly caused by Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, which is the strongest in the entire solar system.

‘Chorus waves have been detected in space around the Earth but they are nowhere near as strong as the waves at Jupiter,’ Richard Horne, another co-author said.

‘Even if a small portion of these waves escapes the immediate vicinity of Ganymede, they will be capable of accelerating particles to very high energies and ultimately producing very fast electrons inside Jupiter’s magnetic field,’ he added.

The Solar System, and the Galaxy, never stop springing surprises on us, and remain as enigmatic as ever.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.