HAMNET Report 30th April 2023

I’m sure you will join me in being happy to hear that the French sailor who set off from Hout Bay Yacht Club in Cape Town early in March, has finally arrived safely in the French Caribbean, following seven weeks of solo sailing and no updates about his progress.

Sailing the yacht Akela II, Emmanuel Dailler, aged 56, left Hout Bay Yacht Club on 2nd March and was believed to be heading to Martinique Island. According to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Dailler arrived on Sunday after having been reported missing earlier this month.

“He has informed his family that he is safe,” said NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon. The NSRI, together with SA maritime authorities, French authorities and the maritime community at large, had been waiting to hear news of Dailler’s progress.

“His wife and family [have] been informed by Mr Dailler of his safe arrival at his destination during the early hours of Sunday morning (SA time).”

The NSRI was relieved to hear that Dailler is safe and thanked all those involved in coordinating the search effort.

Lambinon added: “We urge all sailors to ensure that their safety equipment, such as EPIRBs [Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon], is up to date and in good working condition, as they can be life-saving in an emergency situation. Always have a number of communication devices to keep in communication when embarking on long voyages.”

Earlier this month, the yacht was reported missing by the NSRI. On 14 April, the NSRI said they were keeping a lookout for the sailing vessel as the yacht and Dailler may have been overdue.

Thanks to News24 for the summary of the situation.

From interestingengineering.com comes a report that a new NASA sound clip, released on April 17, offers an eerie glimpse into the strange and unsettling sounds that Earth’s magnetic field produces. The clip contains a series of high-pitched whistles, crunches, and whooshes that are created when waves of plasma from the sun interact with Earth’s magnetic field. This phenomenon causes the magnetic field lines to vibrate like the strings of a lute, which gives off a distinct and otherworldly sound.

The HARP project, which is responsible for creating the sound clip, is part of NASA’s Heliophysics Audified: Resonances in Plasmas or HARP initiative. This project aims to convert data about Earth’s magnetosphere into audible sounds to help researchers identify irregularities in the plasma shield. Citizen scientists can listen to these sounds and highlight any unusual patterns. This could lead to new discoveries about the magnetosphere and the sun.

Earth’s magnetosphere is a protective magnetic bubble surrounding our planet’s outer atmosphere, shielding us from harmful sun radiations and solar storms. It is an integral part of the space environment that surrounds our planet. Scientists can predict and prepare for space weather events affecting us by understanding the nature of the magnetosphere and the sun.

The magnetosphere is created by the interaction of Earth’s magnetic field with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles constantly flowing from the sun. The solar wind compresses and shapes the magnetosphere, causing it to stretch out into a long tail that extends far behind the Earth.

Waves of plasma from the sun slam into the Earth’s magnetosphere to create fluctuations or vibrations in the plasma shield. This gives off “ultralow-frequency” radio waves. These radio waves can be detected and converted into audible sounds as part of NASA’s HARP project. 

The THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) mission, launched in 2007, consists of five satellites that traverse the magnetosphere and record ultralow-frequency waves. The HARP project has converted this data into audible sounds, allowing researchers easily to recognize patterns and spot irregularities in the plasma shield. 

The project has already made a surprising discovery, with sound bites containing patterns that go against previous predictions. The team has dubbed these unexpected sounds the “reverse harp” and plans to study them in more depth in the future.

Recording sounds from the magnetosphere is not a new phenomenon for scientists. In fact, on February 17, an X-class solar flare hit Earth and caused radio blackouts. Thomas Ashcraft, an amateur radio astronomer, and citizen scientist managed to capture an unusual audio recording of the flare colliding with Earth. Unlike the HARP sounds, which are eerie and otherworldly, Ashcraft’s recording consisted of aggressive static.

The HARP project offers an exciting opportunity for citizen scientists to help researchers uncover new and unexpected discoveries about Earth’s magnetosphere and the sun. The eerie and unsettling sounds captured by NASA’s new sound clip provide a unique and fascinating insight into the mysteries of our planet’s magnetic field.

Frankly I think all the eerie and unsettling sounds are just QRM caused by harmonics on my HF signal, but I’m not going to say anything to NASA!

Talking of QRM, there is a story this week of breakthrough from an Argentinian taxi or delivery driver which was audible in the ears of the two Russian Cosmonauts doing a spacewalk outside the ISS while it was flying over Argentina. It would appear the frequencies used on a taxi cab in the country’s capital and that of Russian astronauts were the same.

Just three seconds of interference have poked a hole in NASA’s communications trouble, with the American space agency still searching for a permanent solution.

Frequencies used for radio communications are not unlimited and interference is possible, as was the case for the Argentinian taxi driver who hopped on to the comms call for a few seconds.

A reporter who picked up on the frequency tweeted: “In the middle of the transmission of the spacewalk, what seems to be a radio taxi in Argentina is heard… or some delivery service?”

The message, a brief slice of NASA’s live feed, was translated as “150 did you say, from Irigoyen?” This was an address a taxi driver or delivery driver had asked about, and the frequency meshed into that of an astronaut’s comms call.

The interference has not yet been publicly addressed by NASA, and appears to be a small technical problem.

Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin, the two cosmonauts who were on a spacewalk when the issue was flagged, had been moving a radiator to a recently installed Russian Nauka module.

Now here I would have asked the Argentinian delivery man to send two pizzas, and deliver them straight up!

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