HAMNET Report 13th March 2022

By Tuesday this week, GDACS was starting to warn us of the arrival of Tropical Cyclone GOMBE, travelling like its two predecessors from East to West, mild in effect as it swept over the Northern tip of Madagascar, but gaining strength as it approached the coast of the Northern half of Mozambique.

At that stage wind speeds of 120km/h or higher were forecast, and about a quarter of a million people in its path threatened. By Wednesday, a red alert had been issued and the path of the storm was predicted to affect 1.3 million people

It was forecast to cross the coast of Mozambique midmorning on Friday, with maximum sustained wind speeds of up to 210km/h, and advance inland in a westerly direction. Very heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surges were forecast over northern and central Mozambique until tomorrow the 14th.

Meanwhile, the Sun put on a magnificent display on Thursday the 10th, when it generated a coronal mass ejection which erupted from the sun throughout its 360 degree circumference. The Solarham.net website reports that a full halo coronal mass ejection (CME) observed on March 10th following a filament eruption has been modelled by NOAA/SWPC. They are predicting an almost direct passage past Earth by late on March 13th (this afternoon), and into the 14th (UTC). Aurora sky watchers should be alert later this weekend as Minor (G1) to Moderate (G2) geomagnetic storming may be possible once it arrives. Radio amateurs can also be alerted to higher Planetary K indices, resulting in radio blackouts or at the least poor conditions.

Solarham.net is managed by Kevin VE3EN, and he has updated all aspects of solar physics every day for at least 15 years. He posts pretty impressive pictures and graphics of solar status, and of course forecasts, for the coming few days. He does not do YouTube videos like Dr Tamitha Skov (spaceweatherwoman.com), but provides a far wider range of science than she is able to do in her 10 minute videos.

If you watch both of these sites every day, you will very quickly gain a great understanding into the way the sun makes, or spoils, our day for us!

Here’s a sensible story from Fort Bragg and Mendocino County in California. Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the Redwood Coast Seniors facility in Fort Bragg now has both an amateur radio station and an amateur radio repeater covering the North Coast Area.

The advantage of amateur radio of course is that it works even when the phone, cell service, and internet are down. These radios link to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at the local sheriff’s department, and since the Senior Centre has its own generator, this amateur radio communications facility can operate when power, phone, and internet are unavailable.

The most recent addition is the repeater, previously housed in a private residence. Jonathan Peakall and Dennis Kelly, long-time amateur radio licensees, and John Skinner from the Senior Centre installed the equipment and the antenna last month. “This is a great location for the repeater, and we are pleased that the Senior Centre can host it for the community,” says Peakall.

In the autumn of 2017, when the area had its devastating fires, the communications facility at Laughlin Peak was destroyed twice. There was no phone, cell service, or internet for two days, and limited to fire and police radio only in the central part of the county. Amateur radio operators provided communications during that emergency. Since coastal Mendocino County can be cut off in case of earthquake, fire, flood, or tsunami, it is essential that they can communicate with the outside world. The Fort Bragg Senior Centre is a part of that communication.

Those of you old timers who used to enjoy chasing broadcast stations on shortwave, will listen with nostalgia as I tell you that BBC World Service has started broadcasts for 4 hours per day in the general direction of Ukraine and Russia.

Fearing that biased news only may be getting through to the populace of both countries, and knowing that its websites with hopefully factual news had been taken down in Russia, the BBC World Service has started transmissions between 2 and 4pm local time in Ukraine on 15735 KHz, and between 8 and 10pm local time on 5875 KHz. Languages used will be both Ukrainian and Russian, and it seems the transmission will be made from Germany, aiming eastwards.

Now, from UniverseToday, we hear that NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon brought back about 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of samples, including rocks, rock cores, rock, pebbles, sand, and dust. Scientists have studied those samples intently over the decades and have learned a lot. But they haven’t studied all of the samples.

In an impressive act of foresight, NASA left some of the samples unopened and in pristine condition. Why? Because they knew the technology used to study the samples would only improve over the decades.

Apollo 17 was NASA’s final Apollo mission and the last of six that made it to the Moon and back. The mission returned to Earth with its samples just over 50 years ago. The three astronauts on that mission were Gene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt. Schmitt was a geologist and the only scientist ever to visit the Moon. The crew collected about 115 kg (254 lb) of lunar samples, the largest payload collected by any Apollo Mission.

Apollo 17 landed in the Taurus-Littrow Valley on the eastern edge of Mare Serenitatis. The mission had two main geological objectives: to obtain samples of ancient rocks from the lunar highlands and to look for evidence of young volcanic activity on the valley floor.

The astronauts put the samples in Special Environmental Sample Containers. The containers have seals to protect the enclosed sample from atmospheric gases prior to being opened in a vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Centre.

Fifty years have passed since Apollo 17 returned to Earth, and NASA has decided that now is the time to open the last remaining unopened lunar sample from the Apollo Program. The Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program (ANGSA) will unseal the sample. ANGSA is a team of scientists whose goal is to “… maximize the science derived from samples returned by the Apollo Program in preparation for future lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond.”

This foresight to have previously untouched moon samples to examine 50 years later is certainly to be commended.

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