HAMNET Report 9 June 2019

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Divisional Director of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal reports that they provided support for the Standard Bank 70.3 Ironman held in Durban on Sunday 02 June 2019.  The race consisted of a 1.9Km swim, a 90.1 Km Cycle ride and finished off with a relaxing 21.1Km run along the Durban beachfront.

A total of 10 operators were stationed at points covering the route, with Justin ZS5KT on foot with the Race Director, who covered a distance of 22Km foot-mobile by the end of the day.  There were 2 operators in the VOC  (Provincial Director Keith Lowes ZS5WFD assisted by Ugo ZS5UGR), Craig ZS5CD at the cycle turnaround point at the M4/ Umdloti , whilst Geoff ZS5AGM and Val ZS5VAL were at the other end of the cycle route in Sandile Thusi (Argyle) Road.

Troy ZS5TWJ was positioned at the race penalty tent in the parking lot of Suncoast Casino, Wayne ZS5WAY was on the run route at Blue Lagoon,  Terry ZS5TB at the Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club, and Deon ZS5DD at Ushaka Beach.

90% of communications were handled on 145.525 Simplex, with the 145.7625 repeater used to communicate with Craig ZS5CD at Umdloti.

Keith reports no serious race casualties and thanks all those who volunteered to help with this annual race.

He and his band of merry men in HAMNET KZN are busy again today shepherding the Comrades runners on another up-run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. We hope the weather is acceptable today, and the race goes well. Keith says he will send me a report on the Comrades for inclusion in this bulletin in the coming weeks.

Greg Mossop G0DUB, the IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Co-ordinator, has released the schedule for the Emergency Comms meeting to be held at Friedrichshafen on the 21st of June.

After a welcome and a short region 1 report, Greg will lead a discussion on what use we can make of Satellites for Emergency Communications, including Low Earth Orbit and Geostationary satellites. This will be followed by another open discussion on HF conditions and weak signal message modes like JS8call.

Then Alberto IK1YLO will show a 6 minute film about the North East Italian Flood Exercise of 5-9 June 2018, followed by an update on their national DMR project.

Ron 4X1IG will talk about a contest as a drill, and then Oliver DL7TNY will introduce the attendees to AREDN data networks.

After a short open forum to answer any remaining questions and for guidance for new groups, Greg will discuss how EmComms would respond to a power grid failure.

All in all a useful meeting, and I’m sorry that we may not get to hear about the entire proceedings.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reminds us that the Hara Arena used to be the venue for the Dayton Hamvention before it took up residence at the Xenia Fairgrounds, also in Ohio.

This week, just days after the Xenia Hamvention was over, word was received that Ohio ARES was activated after a tornado badly damaged Hara Arena in Trotwood on US Memorial Day.

According to a report from WHIO TV, Hara Arena suffered extensive damage. Drone video showed that the roof and side of the structure had been blown off in several places. Hamvention relocated to the Xenia Fairgrounds in 2017, after Hara Arena shut down the previous year.

The Hara Arena damage apparently resulted from what CBS News called “a large and dangerous tornado” that struck Trotwood. Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said ARES counties and districts activated that evening after nearly 40 tornado warnings were issued across the state.

It must have been a wild and dangerous time for the residents of Ohio.

Reporting on another disaster, the IOL website says that social media was the unsung hero of the 2017 Knysna fires and an independent disaster report released on Thursday recommends that municipality communications teams should make more use of social networking to improve communication with the public.

According to Richard Walls, who heads up Stellenbosch University’s Fire Engineering Research Unit (FireSUN), social media was extensively used during the incident. Walls, who delivered a slide presentation during the launch of the report, said that while “Facebook was used more by Knysna residents tracking the fire, Twitter was used more in the relief efforts that followed”.

The report, Minimising The Risk And Impact Of Another Mega-Fire In South Africa, recommended that “municipality communications teams must identify high-profile social media influencers and enlist their support in spreading messages and directing users to information sources”.

Another key recommendation was that insurers develop more affordable insurance products for the so-called missing middle, the households which are not sufficiently impoverished to be supported by government welfare, but which are not able to afford insurance. Communities could also join the local Fire Protection Association (FPA), the report said, and participate in setting up fire-wise communities. Residents and landowners should work with FPAs to map and monitor the extent and densities of invasive alien plant re-growth accurately.

This is fundamental to determining the amount and duration of funding required to control the massive regeneration of invading plant species after fires.

Other recommendations in the report commissioned by short-term insurer Santam included managing or controlling the presence of fire-prone vegetation and other combustible or flammable material on tracts of land, attending to all fire call-outs even if they don’t appear threatening, and focussing more on public education and awareness programmes on the risks associated with wildfires.

The Knysna fire was the worst wildfire disaster in South Africa’s history. The report found that its severity was caused by a cocktail of factors including drought, low atmospheric humidity, strong winds and abundant fuel.

Thank you to IOL for those extracts from the report.

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

HAMNET Report 2 June 2019

NewsHub reports that Elon Musk has enraged astronomers around the world, who are warning his SpaceX company is putting the future of astronomy at risk. Musk plans to encircle the world with 12,000 Starlink communications satellites, and launched the first 60 into orbit a few days ago.

The satellites are high-reflective, and they’re currently lighting up the night sky with a spectacular ‘train’ of lights. But scientists fear his plan for space domination could have dramatic adverse effects on their research.

A number of senior figures say the satellites will cause a massive spike in light pollution in the sky, affecting the use of large, sensitive ground-based telescopes. “The potential tragedy of a mega-constellation like Starlink is that for the rest of humanity it changes how the night sky looks,” Ronald Drimmel, from the Turin Astrophysical Observatory in Italy, told Forbes. “Starlink, and other mega constellations, would ruin the sky for everyone on the planet.”

Mark McCaughrean, the senior advisor for science and exploration at the European Space Agency, warns a drastic increase in visible satellites is a “chilling thought”. “The more I think about this, the more of a disaster it seems and not just for astronomers,” he tweeted.

“Just trying desperately to scramble for any possible way this can go well,” agreed science writer Mika McKinnon.

US astronomy student Victoria Girgis took a photo of what they look like passing in front of her telescope with a 25-second exposure. The result was a night sky smeared with satellites.

And Royal Institution of Australia lead scientist Alan Duffy, an astronomer at Swinburne University, warned the completion of the Starlink network will only make things worse. “A full constellation of Starlink satellites will likely mean the end of Earth-based microwave-radio telescopes able to scan the heavens for faint radio objects,” Duffy told ScienceAlert. “The enormous benefits of global internet coverage will outweigh the cost to astronomers, but the loss of the radio sky is a cost to humanity as we lose our collective birthright to see the afterglow of the Big Bang or the glow of forming stars from Earth”, he said.

Musk has defended his actions, variously arguing that the International Space Station also has lights, that his satellites won’t have any impact, SpaceX is working to mitigate any impacts, that even if they did have an impact it was for the “greater good”, and scientists need to upgrade their equipment anyway.

I, in turn, wonder what the effect on the Square Kilometre Array will be in Southern Africa. I am amazed that the concept of 12000 satellites, causing light and electronic pollution everywhere around the globe, got as far as the launch of 60 of them!

Writing for Phys.org, Mike Williams of Rice University says that wearable devices that harvest energy from movement are not a new idea, but a material created at Rice University may make them more practical.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has adapted laser-induced graphene (LIG) into small, metal-free devices that generate electricity. Like rubbing a balloon on hair, putting LIG composites in contact with other surfaces produces static electricity that can be used to power devices.

For that, thank the triboelectric effect, by which materials gather a charge through contact. When they are put together and then pulled apart, surface charges build up that can be channelled toward power generation.

In experiments, the researchers connected a folded strip of LIG to a string of light-emitting diodes and found that tapping the strip produced enough energy to make them flash. A larger piece of LIG embedded within a flip-flop let a wearer generate energy with every step, as the graphene composite’s repeated contact with skin produced a current to charge a small capacitor.

“This could be a way to recharge small devices just by using the excess energy of heel strikes during walking, or swinging arm movements against the torso,” Tour said.

“The nanogenerator embedded within a flip-flop was able to store 0.22 millijoules of electrical energy on a capacitor after a 1-kilometer walk,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Michael Stanford, lead author of the paper. “This rate of energy storage is enough to power wearable sensors and electronics with human movement.”

The weekend of the 23rd to 26th of May was a busy time for the Peninsula Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) teams. Four difficult rescues took place, two of them ending badly.

On the 23rd, a team responded to assist a climber injured after some rocks had fallen on him at Llandudno Corner. A helicopter lowered rescuers to the site, where two victims were found. A climber with a minor ankle injury was hoisted out and delivered to the landing zone, while a second more seriously injured patient was immobilised and packaged for safe hoisting and delivery to the landing zone.

On the 24th, a man was discovered just off a path in Newlands Forest to be deceased, and was carried off the scene down to a Metro Rescue Vehicle before being handed over to Forensic Pathology Services.

On the 25th, a climber became stuck on a ledge after sustaining an ankle injury above Woodstock Cave on Devil’s Peak. Again, a helicopter evacuation was needed, and two rescuers were lowered to the ledge. The hiker was secured in a special “nappy harness”, hoisted to the helicopter, and delivered to the awaiting ground crew at the landing zone.

And, on the 26th, a report was received of a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation being attempted on a person who had collapsed in Tokai Forest. Rescuers were able to drive along the forest jeep tracks to reach the area known as “level four”, near where a middle-aged man was found to have suffered a cardiac arrest while mountain biking with friends. Members of that group had immediately begun CPR while summoning help. After more than an hour, attempts to revive him were abandoned by the Metro Medical Rescue Technicians, and he was declared dead on the scene. Police Services attended to the removal of his body.

WSAR conveys its sincerest condolences to the families and friends of these two men.

HAMNET in turn salutes the work of the groups of volunteers comprising WSAR who took part in rescuing or retrieving the various parties.

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

HAMNET Report 26 May 2019

May I start this bulletin today by congratulating the 129 candidates who passed this May’s Radio Amateur Exam, and now find themselves licensed to be heard on the airwaves. Well done all, we hope to hear you all on the air soon, and hope that at least some of you will join HAMNET in your relevant province or division, to assist with emergency communications or sporting events. Please contact me for details of your local divisional director of HAMNET.

In the first Snow Report of the Winter for Southern Africa, mention was made on Tuesday the 21st of a light dusting of snow on the top of the Matroosberg near Ceres that morning. This followed the night after the first winter storm to hit the Western Cape brought  between 30 and 70mm of rain at least to mountain ranges and dam catchment areas in the Overberg and Western Cape region. Night-time temperatures have dropped considerably since the cold front of last weekend, but a fairly dry week and a half has followed the front, and no more rain is forecast here for another week.

Those ever-vigilant reporters at Southgate Amateur Radio News say that The Hindu reports that members of the Amateur Radio Society of Odisha (ARSO) want the state government to promote amateur radio.

The newspaper says the Odisha government should promote amateur radio enthusiasts in all blocks of Odisha to increase preparedness at the time of communication failure, especially during natural calamities, according to members  of the ARSO.

But ARSO laments that during cyclone Fani, Odisha government did not take their direct help, and preferred to use HAM operators from West Bengal and Hyderabad, who faced problems with respect to language and lack of knowledge of localities.

The group has 25 licensed HAM radio operators who regularly update the technology along with their operational skill. In February this year, they had tested their communication skills at an uninhabited island within Chilika lake to check their    preparedness for natural calamities like cyclonic storms.

During cyclone Fani, members of ARSO reached Puri on May 4 to provide support to the public after all conventional modes of communication had failed after landfall of the cyclone. Connecting to the internet in Berhampur via HAM radio, they were able to reach out to social media, asking  people living outside to provide addresses of their family members in the cyclone-devastated regions so that news about their condition could be checked and passed on. Hundreds of families of Puri and Chandanpur areas are said to have benefited from this.

Thank you to The Hindu for the follow-up on the effects of Cyclone Fani.

Scientists from Ireland and France announced a major new finding on Friday about how matter behaves in the extreme conditions of the Sun’s atmosphere.

The scientists used large radio telescopes and ultraviolet cameras on a NASA spacecraft to understand better the exotic but poorly understood “fourth state of matter”. Known as plasma, this matter could hold the key to developing safe, clean and efficient nuclear energy generators on Earth. The scientists published their findings in the leading international journal Nature Communications.

Most of the matter we encounter in our everyday lives comes in the form of solid, liquid or gas, but the majority of the Universe is composed of plasma—a highly unstable and electrically charged fluid. The Sun is also made up of this plasma.

Despite being the most common form of matter in the Universe plasma remains a mystery, mainly due to its scarcity in natural conditions on Earth, which makes it difficult to study. Special laboratories on Earth recreate the extreme conditions of space for this purpose, but the Sun represents an all-natural laboratory to study how plasma behaves in conditions that are often too extreme for the manually constructed Earth-based laboratories.

Postdoctoral Researcher at Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS), Dr. Eoin Carley, led the international collaboration. He said: “The solar atmosphere is a hotbed of extreme activity, with plasma temperatures in excess of 1 million degrees Celsius and particles that travel close to light-speed. The light-speed particles shine bright at radio wavelengths, so we’re able to monitor exactly how plasmas behave with large radio telescopes.”

“We worked closely with scientists at the Paris Observatory and performed observations of the Sun with a large radio telescope located in Nançay in central France. We combined the radio observations with ultraviolet cameras on NASA’s space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft to show that plasma on the sun can often emit radio light that pulses like a light-house. We have known about this activity for decades, but our use of space and ground-based equipment allowed us to image the radio pulses for the first time and see exactly how plasmas become unstable in the solar atmosphere.”

Studying the behaviour of plasmas on the Sun allows for a comparison of how they behave on Earth, where much effort is now under way to build magnetic confinement fusion reactors. These are nuclear energy generators that are much safer, cleaner and more efficient than their fission reactor cousins that we currently use for energy today.

Professor at DIAS and collaborator on the project, Peter Gallagher, said: “Nuclear fusion is a different type of nuclear energy generation that fuses plasma atoms together, as opposed to breaking them apart like fission does. Fusion is more stable and safer, and it doesn’t require highly radioactive fuel; in fact, much of the waste material from fusion is inert helium.”

“The only problem is that nuclear fusion plasmas are highly unstable. As soon as the plasma starts generating energy, some natural process switches off the reaction. While this switch-off behaviour is like an inherent safety switch, in that fusion reactors cannot form runaway reactions, it also means the plasma is difficult to maintain in a stable state for energy generation. By studying how plasmas become unstable on the Sun, we can learn about how to control them on Earth.”

And this report came from the website phys.org to whom we extend thanks.

Finally, Dayton Hamvention has come and gone, and your writer awaits with keen interest news of new equipment and technologies announced over the weekend. It is understood that a new SDR transceiver from Elecraft, and many new gadgets from MFJ Industries, are amongst the revelations. More news as soon as I acquire it.

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

HAMNET Report 19 May 2019

One of the strongest solar magnetic storms in recent years, which began early on 14 May and was forecast to continue through the evening, could have increased the possibility of spacecraft de-orbiting, and caused problems in satellite navigation and communication, the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI RAS) said.

“In accordance with the developed scale of magnetic storms, level three storms have a noticeable impact on technology, especially in space, including causing [space] vehicles to de-orbit and creating problems with maintaining their orientation”, the LPI RAS Laboratory of X-ray Astronomy of the Sun said in a statement.

The lab added that interruptions in satellite navigation and problems with low-frequency radio navigation, as well as interruptions in high-frequency radio communication were expected. In turn, Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos told Sputnik that it did not record changes in the work of Russian satellites [as a result of] the magnetic storm.

The most powerful geomagnetic storm seen in almost two years, caused by the solar activity, began on Tuesday morning, chief scientist of the Laboratory of Solar X-ray Astronomy of the Lebedev Physical Institute Sergey Bogachev told Sputnik.

“In comparison with the events of recent years, this is a major event. Over the past year and a half or two, this is the severest magnetic storm, an impressive event. This event forms aurora, and creates interference in radio communications”, Bogachev said.

According to the scientist, the geomagnetic storm can affect meteo-sensitive people too.

The storm began on Tuesday around 03h00 UTC and was expected to last through the evening, as this kind of event usually lasts up to ten hours. Normalisation of the Earth’s magnetic field was expected by the early hours of Wednesday.

Thanks to Space Daily for that report.

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station team (ARISS) is pleased to announce that it has worked together with Hamvention again this year. Hamvention’s 2019 theme is “Mentoring the Next Generation”, and ends today the 19th..

ARISS’s mission is all about mentoring and inspiring. Tens of thousands of people have been touched by the programme: students, educators, community members, and new hams–all wanting to explore STEM and Amateur Radio through ARISS.

Hamvention’s support to ARISS began with approval for their first-ever ARISS Forum, held last Friday at 1:15pm local time. A group of speakers presented current and future lifelong learning activities for hams and students via ARISS SSTV, APRS, voice repeaters, radio experiments and robots.

Attendees heard about the next generation on-orbit hardware systems, updates on school activities, ARISS’s visionary initiative to fly ham radio on the human spaceflight lunar Gateway, how to maximize hams’ opportunities to make ARISS connections and listen to the ISS crew in home stations, and to meet special guests.

And that report came from the Southgate Amateur Radio News.

This week’s World Health Organisation report says that dementia affects around 50 million people globally with nearly 10 million new cases every year. Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older people.

Here’s important advice for you: You can reduce your risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling your weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, according to new guidelines issued by WHO.

Strangely, there’s no mention of the important benefit to health of qualifying for and using an amateur radio licence. The authors must be chided for overlooking this important fact!

The dates fixed by NASA to return to the Moon are 2024, and 2033 to land on Mars, but, according to experts and industry insiders, reaching the Red Planet by 2033 is highly improbable, barring a Herculean effort on the scale of the Apollo programme in the 1960s.

“The Moon is the proving ground for our eventual mission to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a conference this week.

“The Moon is our path to get to Mars in the fastest, safest way possible. That’s why we go to the Moon.”

Amongst the psychological challenges facing the journey to Mars:

Well, from the design, manufacture, and testing of the rockets and spaceships required, to learning the best way to grow lettuce, all the groundwork remains to be done.

Just getting there will take six months at least, as opposed to three days to the Moon.

The whole mission could take two years, since Mars and the Earth are closest to each other every 26 months, a window of opportunity that must be taken.

Key tasks include finding a way to shield astronauts from prolonged exposure to solar and cosmic radiation, said Julie Robinson, NASA’s chief scientist for the International Space Station.

“A second is our food system,” she added. The current plant system ideas “are not packageable, portable or small enough to take to Mars.”

And then there’s the question of dealing with medical emergencies. Astronauts will need to be able to treat themselves in case of any accidents.

Techniques to exploit Martian resources to extract water, oxygen and fuel necessary for humans to live there don’t yet exist — and must be tested on the Moon by the end of this decade.

Finally there’s the most fundamental question: how will a group of people cope with the psychological stress of being totally isolated for two years?

It won’t be possible to communicate in real time with Houston mission control. Radio communications will take between four and 24 minutes between the planets, one-way. NASA plans to test out delayed-communication exercises on board the ISS in the coming years.

Artificial intelligence must also be developed to assist and guide the astronauts.

Thank you to Yahoo News for the report on this very formidable task awaiting NASA.

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

HAMNET Report 12 May 2019

HAMNET is shocked to learn of the sudden passing, on Thursday evening, of Dave Holliday ZS5HN, deputy director of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal. Keith Lowes ZS5WFD, Regional Director for KwaZulu Natal reports that he had spent Thursday evening working in his shack in the garage, but collapsed and died as he entered his house at 23h30 late that evening.

Keith writes in a Face Book entry that he was a very dedicated member of Hamnet and served as Keith’s Deputy Director for many years. He was also a long time member of the Highway Amateur Radio Club, and was responsible for lecturing many members in studying for and passing the exams to obtain their licences. HAMNET South Africa joins Keith in sending sincere condolences to his wife Cheryl, family and many friends. Rest In Peace, Dave.

Grant Southey, ZS1GS, Regional Director for HAMNET Western Cape, reports that the newly-acquired container for us to use as a storeroom, has been installed at Tygerberg’s Emergency Management Centre, and that he and two other stalwarts of the Western Cape, have transferred all the contents of the previous storeroom into the container. Painting and cleaning up will still need to be finished, but all is otherwise complete. Thank you to Doug ZS1DUG, Peter ZS1PDE, and Grant ZS1GS for doing this work on the afternoon of Voting day.

Grant has also notified us that he is still two radio operators short for the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge trail run taking place next Saturday the 18th of May. So if you are able to assist with this event, please contact Grant at grantsouthey@gmail.com.

Anette, ZR6D, of HAMNET Gauteng South, has sent me the entire write up of the 100 Cycle Challenge event, that took place at Germiston Lake on Sunday past. You will have heard a mention on the HQ bulletin, and can find the report as a header on the SARL website, at www.sarl.org.za.

It appears that 24 operators, under the controlling eye of Glynn ZS6GLN, started installing APRS equipment in ambulances last Saturday afternoon, and helped deploy the speed fences to close off various roads on the routes early on Sunday morning.

There was a delay due to serious congestion at the start, but finally the three races were sent off, the short 50km race first, followed by the 100km regular race, and finally the UCI Elite riders, who set off at 11h00.

HAMNET members were instrumental in managing the intersection of the R23 and the R554 in Brakpan, and in getting all the Elite cyclists safely on to the N17 freeway.

They further assisted in opening some of the major roads, once the back riders were through, as well as following the slower riders safely back to the finish at Germiston Lake.

The Event Organisers were loud in their praise of the HAMNET Member’s contribution, professing that the radio operators had saved the day with their expertise and professionalism. The third of May 2020 has already been diarised as the date for HAMNET’s participation in next year’s race.

Thank you to the 24 operators who participated, and to Anette ZR6D for including me in the distribution of this report. For the complete story, don’t forget to look at the front page of the SARL webpage.

In The Vintage News, we read that “surprise” might be an understatement to describe amateur astronomer Phil Williams’ reaction upon being told that the ghostly radio signal he had detected was in fact coming from a satellite that had failed and disappeared decades ago.

Williams told Southgate Amateur Radio News that the signal he detected from his base in Cornwall seemed to cycle every four seconds, diminishing and returning to create an eerie repetitive sound.

It would later be determined that the fluctuation was the result of the long-lost satellite barrelling end over end through the void of space, causing variations in the light reaching the solar panels that Gunter’s Space Page says likely now power the depleted batteries of this 65 lb (30 kg) relic of the space age.

Scientists are unclear as to how the satellite continues to operate — Williams himself expressed some uncertainty as to how the craft might continue to function given the particularly harsh environment of space and its tendency to destroy electronic equipment.

The mystery is compounded by the fact that the propulsion system of the satellite, built by MIT’s Lincoln Lab and launched in February 1965, failed upon its launch and the craft was thought lost forever when it ceased to transmit in 1967.

After initially failing to reach its projected orbit, the satellite stopped communicating with its base for 46 long years before Williams’ discovery of its abrupt revival.

Some speculate that the battery’s demise may now be allowing power to pass directly from the solar panels to the computer, with human error in the wiring of the device to blame for its premature failure.

The satellite, named LES-1, was originally launched to test the United States’ capability to communicate via satellite after nuclear testing in the Pacific annihilated portions of the ionosphere and effectively halted high-frequency communications with their allies in Hawaii and New Zealand.

With parts of the ionosphere effectively turned into black spots, the US was suddenly without a vital communication infrastructure, and, as Mark Wade described in an article on Astronautix.com, the LES program was started to guarantee vital lines of communication.

In the case of the LES-1 satellite, however, the waters are still murky as to the cause of its demise and resurrection. Without physically recovering the craft, it is likely impossible to determine with any certainty what went wrong and how the craft’s deterioration led to it resuming its broadcast.

So unlikely was its self-recommissioning, that NASA was hesitant to believe it. From the moment of Williams’ discovery, it would be three long years before NASA was able to conclusively confirm suspicions that the mystery signal was emanating from the nearly 50-year-old LES-1 satellite.

Other satellites in MIT’s LES program successfully completed their missions, lending credibility to the assertion that the craft was robustly engineered despite its failed mission.

Today, LES-1 continues to tumble through the blackness of space, slowly disintegrating in the unprotected reaches of Earth’s orbit and giving off its last faint warbles as earthbound astronomers await the day it gives off its final transmission at 237MHz and falls silent for the last time.

Thanks to The Vintage News for that strange story.

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

HAMNET Report 5 May 2019

From World Vision come reports of Cyclone Fani-19, which formed as a tropical depression in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra. The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii first tracked the developing storm on April 26. As it drifted west, it began to strengthen, and, from April 30, it has been an extremely severe cyclonic storm, the first of the 2019 season.

Cyclone Fani made landfall on the Bay of Bengal coast of India about 8 a.m. local time on Friday, May 3. The storm hit Puri city in Odisha state with heavy rain and wind speeds exceeding 130 mph, equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. More than a million people in India were evacuated from the coastal zone.

The cyclone tracked north along the north coast with diminishing force before reaching Bangladesh. Rain and possible flooding are expected to continue in Bangladesh throughout the weekend.

Storm warnings were issued for 19 districts of India’s Odisha, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh states, the most likely to be in the storm’s path. In Bangladesh, the national government sounded warnings for coastal cities, including Cox’s Bazar, home to more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees.

As of yesterday (Saturday), no reports of loss of life have been received. Perhaps the coastal evacuations, and the way in which the cyclone stayed just off-shore before disintegrating into a tropical depression at the Bangladeshi coast, accounts for the relatively minor effects of the storm.

Meanwhile, members of the West Bengal Radio Club, are en route to Odisha. Once there, they will link up with the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) control room in Bhubaneswar, and will also relay information to Delhi and Kolkata.

A team from Andhra Pradesh is also scheduled to join them later. They will be there to establish radio communication, when all other modes of communication fail following the cyclone. Initially they will be posted to set up radio stations in the OSDMA control room at Rajiv Bhawan in Bhubaneswar, Purim and Kendrapara which are expected to be hit severely. They will also visit the areas which will be worst hit after the cyclone comes.

Further reporting from Mozambique after its two Cyclones in the space of a month comes from the website BRIGHT, which notes that 38 people have been killed by Cyclone Kenneth. More than 35,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.”

Cyclone Kenneth came just as hundreds of thousands of civilians, left homeless and hungry by Cyclone Idai — which turned huge swaths of the country into an inland sea — were starting to put the pieces of their lives together. World Vision estimates that flooding from both cyclones have affected nearly 3 million people and the death toll is said to exceed 843 people.

But many experts believe that the death toll from Cyclone Idai alone is much higher than the official figure since countless missing bodies have never been discovered and are believed to have been washed away, and many of the hardest hit regions remain unreachable.

As victims of the storms are struggling to come to terms with the scale of the tragedy, the biggest fear remains the outbreak of communicable diseases such as cholera. At least 1,428 people have been infected with the waterborne disease as government and aid agencies work around the clock to contain the outbreak.

The international community has been slow to react to the unfolding humanitarian disaster in what is one of the poorest countries in the world. So far, aid remains “drastically underfunded, with only about $88 million received of the $390 million needed”..

Here’s excellent news from the medical field. Univadis Medical News reports that the Government of Malawi has launched the world’s first malaria vaccine this week in a landmark pilot programme. The country is the first of three in Africa in which the vaccine, known as RTS,S, will be made available to children up to two years of age. The vaccine will be introduced in Ghana and Kenya in the coming weeks.

RTS,S is the first, and to date, the only vaccine that has demonstrated it can significantly reduce malaria in children. In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to prevent approximately four in 10 malaria cases, including three in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria. The pilot programme is designed to generate evidence and experience to inform World Health Organization (WHO) policy recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S malaria vaccine.

This should be a space worth watching. Remember, you heard it here first!

From that master of digital modes involving RF comes a new brother to FT8, this one called FT4. It is available as part of Dr Joe Taylor’s WSJT suite and freshly announced this week. There is a YouTube video called “FT4 vs FT8 – A new mode: What’s the difference?” So if you are looking for advances in digital messages and new countries contacted, watch the video and see if it will meet your requirements.

Now, some news from the Western Cape Division of HAMNET.

Due to circumstances outside our control, we no longer have a storage facility for HAMNET radios, antennas, mobile masts, banners and the likes. We are also working towards acquiring a trailer to carry our kit to a call-out or sporting event of one or other sort. So the decision was taken at a recent Western Cape HAMNET meeting to acquire a 40 foot container, for these purpose. The Western Province’s Emergency Medical Service has allowed us to place the container in the grounds of the Provincial Emergency Management /Centre at Tygerberg Hospital, and it was delivered on last Thursday. Grant Southey, our Divisional Director, has encouraged all HAMNET members locally to join a work party after voting on this Wednesday, to spruce it up with some paint, install a lighting system, and transfer our possessions from their current storage.

The President’s Trophy Air Race took place on Friday the 3rd and Saturday the 4th of May, in an around the Saldanha air field, and HAMNET Western Cape was asked to man all the turning points of the races on the two days.

We mustered about 16 operators, who manned the beacon points at which the airplanes changed direction along the two routes, kept secret from the airmen until 20 minutes before they took off. Unfortunately, Friday’s weather was overcast and misty with variable rain and cloud height, and the day’s event was cancelled. Saturday dawned bright and clear, and the planes took off at short intervals, and were tracked by the HAMNET ops at each turning point, between 11 am and about 2 pm. Attempts to identify planes by their race numbers were not always easy, and more clear forms of identification will need to be implemented in future races. Nevertheless, a great weekend was enjoyed by all!

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

HAMNET Report 28 April 2019

The most important news in our country this week surrounds the heavy flooding in KwaZulu Natal, in which up to 280mm of rain fell within 12 hours on Monday. It seems the maximum rainfall was just South of Durban central, and the news media were full of pictures of parts of Amanzimtoti washed away, water coming down in floods from high-lying areas, and a slowly increasing death toll.

On Wednesday morning, Keith Lowes ZS5WFD, Regional Director of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal, reported that search and rescue missions were continuing around the Durban area.

Members from DBN Search and Rescue along with DBN K9SAR, Metro Police SAR, NSRI, RescueTech, Life Response EMS, IPSS Medical Rescue and DUT Emergency Medicine Instructors responded to 28 callouts ranging from Structural Collapses, Drownings, Mudslides and Entrapments, all related to the Extreme Weather conditions in and around the Durban area.

Keith reported that the Members had worked right through for a total of 38 continuous hours. On Wednesday morning members from Pietermaritzburg (PMB) SAR, and PMB and Umhlali K9SAR were mobilized to assist in the Rescue and Recovery efforts.

A total of 24 bodies were recovered and 15 people were rescued from life threatening situations. By that time there were still 3 people missing, presumed deceased at various places.

Later in the week, the death-toll was raised to about 50, and clearing of debris at collapsed sites, and on the local beaches, continues.

The most important news in our region this week, surrounds Cyclone Kenneth, which arrived from the East, and battered the Northern coast of Mozambique. Business Insider reports that Kenneth, classified at one stage as a category 4 cyclone, smashed into the northern parts of Mozambique on Thursday evening with wind speeds of up to 280 km/h.

Three people are dead in northern Mozambique after Cyclone Kenneth made a historic landfall late on Thursday, and flooding rain will put more lives and property in peril in the coming days.

Kenneth is the first tropical cyclone with the equivalent of hurricane strength to strike Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado since modern record-keeping began 60 years ago. According to the U.N., the strike by Kenneth marked the first time in recorded history that Mozambique has been hit by two powerful cyclones in the same season. Last month, the central part of the country was slammed by Cyclone Idai, which resulted in hundreds of fatalities.

The dangerous cyclone made landfall in Cabo Delgado, about 100 km north of Pemba, at the end of the day on Thursday, local time. Kenneth had 10-minute maximum sustained winds of 200 km/h, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans, as it moved onshore.

Meteo France estimates a life-threatening storm surge of 3-5 meters occurred along the coast, just south of landfall.

Red Cross teams in northern Mozambique are reporting serious damage in towns and communities that were struck by Kenneth on Thursday night. One woman was killed by a falling tree in Pemba, according to The Associated Press. Two other people were killed on Ibo Island. Prior to reaching Mozambique, Kenneth killed three people in the island nation of Comoros on Wednesday night.

About 90 percent of homes, which were mostly made of mud, may have been destroyed in the main village on Ibo Island, Mozambique. Ibo is located near where Kenneth barrelled onshore.

Electricity was cut on Ibo Island, where many residents also lost cell-phone service when the cyclone downed a tower. There are also reports of “extensive damage” to homes in Quissanga, according to AP. Four ships sank offshore of Palma, but everyone survived.

Significant power outages plagued Pemba, where winds gusted to 70 km/h weather-recording instruments stopped reporting.

While its strong winds have dramatically weakened, Kenneth will crawl through north-eastern Mozambique this weekend and continue to unleash downpours. More lives and property are at risk as the heavy rain can trigger new, or exacerbate ongoing, flooding problems.

“A flooding disaster can unfold in Cabo Delgado where Kenneth slammed onshore,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. “Additional downpours into this weekend can push the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ to 600 mm of rain.

The heavy rain can cause streams, rivers and coastal waterways to flood neighbouring land and communities.

“This is a life-threatening situation as the hardest-hit areas can be put underwater,” Pydynowski warned. “Those needing to be rescued may only be able to be reached by boat or helicopters.”

Flooding downpours from Kenneth can also stream into eastern parts of the Mozambique province of Nampula, as well as graze neighbouring southern Tanzania.

Muidumbe, Mucojo, Nacaroa, Montepuez, Pemba and Nacala are among the communities facing flooding. All evacuation orders are to be followed.

Mudslides can be triggered and endanger those living on hillsides.

“A few thunderstorms can also rumble around Kenneth’s centre, which can further hinder rescue, recovery and storm clean-up efforts,” Pydynowski said.

Prior to Kenneth striking Mozambique, Reuters reports that around 30,000 people were evacuated to safer buildings such as schools.

“Aside from storm damage, the greatest risk will immediately be from flooding due to heavy rains. Rivers within this region of Mozambique may flood, especially as at least one of the dams is already close to full capacity, preventing flood water from being retained. This will make it almost impossible to distribute aid as roads will become impassable,” said Marc Nosbach, CARE Mozambique’s country director.

The areas being affected by Kenneth were largely spared from any of former Tropical Cyclone Idai’s destruction in March.

Kenneth first brought heavy rainfall to parts of Madagascar from Monday into Wednesday. The cyclone then lashed the island nation of Comoros, killing three people. Several other people sustained injuries, according to Reuters.

Thank you to Accuweather for these reports.

HAMNET South Africa is not aware of any activations of ham nets during the storm, but operators were asked to avoid frequencies around 7090 to 7100 kHz LSB in case they unintentionally caused QRM.

And finally, another shameless plug for vaccinating your children. Celebrated in the last week of April, World Immunization Week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunization saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions.

Yet, there are still nearly 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world today. This year’s #VaccinesWork campaign comes at a critical time. It will involve all of us – from governments, to health workers and individuals, in our role as parents, teachers, family members or friends – to ensure every person is vaccinated at the right time, and that we remain protected together.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  in Division 5, reporting for HAMNET South Africa.

HAMNET Report 21 April 2019

HAMNET notes with sadness the passing of Owen Garriott, W5LFL, the first astronaut and radio ham to make a contact from space to earth in 1983, from aboard the Shuttle Columbia, when it was operating Spacelab-1.

An Oklahoma native, Garriott — an electrical engineer — spent 2 months aboard the Skylab space station in 1973 and 10 days aboard Spacelab-1 during a 1983 Space Shuttle Columbia mission. It was during the latter mission that Garriott thrilled radio amateurs around the world by making the first contacts from space. Thousands of hams listened on 2-meter FM, hoping to hear him or to make a contact. He also made the first CW contact from space. Garriott called hamming from space “a pleasant pastime.”

Rest in peace, Owen, and thank you for all you did to kick-start amateur radio in space.

And, on the medical front, The World Health Organisation announced this week that  Measles cases have continued to climb into 2019. Preliminary global data shows that reported cases rose by 300 percent in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This follows consecutive increases over the past two years.

While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend. Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases. Current outbreaks include Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, causing many deaths – mostly among young children.

Over recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases, with the potential to be extremely severe. In 2017, the most recent year for which estimates are available, it caused close to 110 000 deaths. Even in high-income countries, complications result in hospitalization in up to a quarter of cases, and can lead to lifelong disability, from brain damage and blindness to hearing loss.

The disease is almost entirely preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine. For several years, however, global coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85 percent. This is still short of the 95 percent needed to prevent outbreaks, and leaves many people, in many communities, at risk. Second dose coverage, while increasing, stands at 67 percent.

With governments and partners such as the Measles & Rubella Initiative, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and others, response operations are underway to bring country outbreaks under control, strengthen health services, and increase vaccine coverage.

A third layer of disaster management after Cyclone IDAI last month is now becoming apparent.

First came the shock and the terror. Then the fight for survival – to find food, water and shelter, and to avoid diseases.

But in the wake of a natural disaster, children very quickly need protection and education. Being in a safe learning environment with other youngsters is crucial if they are to begin to recover from the trauma.

Children who are out for school for a long time after a disaster are in danger of falling prey to child labour, early marriage, trafficking and other risks. Many will never return to education.

It’s a scenario repeated over and over as communities around the world fall victim to floods, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“Nearly 40 million children a year have their education interrupted by natural disasters such as earthquakes and disease outbreaks,” said Theirworld’s recent report Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis.

“The impacts on children and young people’s education can be profound, with the poorest and most marginalised, including girls, most at risk. The devastation is often most severe and long-lasting in contexts where education capacity and resources are already low.”

However, the report warned, “education is rarely a core focus in emergency responses”. It added: “The rebuilding of school infrastructure is often considered a secondary priority, resulting in children being educated in temporary learning centres for years after the event.”

“For children affected by Cyclone Idai, the road to recovery will be long,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “They will need to regain access to health, education, water and sanitation. And they will need to heal from the deep trauma they have just experienced.”

Thank you to Theirworld for this report published on April the 17th.

HAMNET Western Cape took part in the safety and logistics aspects of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon yesterday. Twenty operators drove sweep vehicles picking up the fallen, or operated rover mobile, reacting to any emergency occurrences along the route, or manned the 4 cut-off points along the two routes.

Unfortunately, due to factors beyond the control of the organisers, it became necessary to deviate from the original route through Hout Bay and on to Chapman’s Peak Drive, and the runners of the ultra race instead turned out of Sunvalley to come back into the Constantia area over Ou Kaapseweg. Plan B, the alternate route via Ou Kaapseweg, has been planned for every year for at least 5 years, so the re-organisation was not very difficult, but it was a pity that the ultra runners did not get to see both the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans as they ran!

The Medical JOC at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg Hospital was manned by 2 operators, using Tetra radio units, or Ham repeater frequencies. A water sachet shortage manifested itself badly in the second half of the Ultra, probably because the climb over Ou Kaapseweg, and the fairly warm weather had people very dehydrated and cramping. We were shocked to discover later that a young male competitor had died after collapsing during the race. Our sincere condolences are extended to his loved ones.

Your writer thanks most earnestly all those HAMNET members in the Western Cape who assisted with the race.

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

HAMNET Report 14 April 2019

Well, the SARL symposium and AGM has come and gone, and I hope those of you who attended one or both gained some useful information, ideas and encouragement to make this wonderful hobby of ours even better. Hopefully your determination to offer your skills to the betterment of society in your area is also increased, as HAMNET strives to be of use to everyone. That is, after all, HAMNET’s main purpose in life!

Congratulations are due to all the SARL award-winners, and particularly the winner of the HAMNET shield, Paul van Spronsen, ZS1V, the previous National Director of HAMNET!  You are a worthy recipient, Sir!  Personally, I don’t know why you have not been honoured with this award before!

Writing in The Washington Post, Joe Kunches reports that the latest 11-year cycle of the sun is almost over and scientists have just released predictions for the next one.

Based on the number of sunspots that formed, scientists considered the last solar cycle, No. 24, “weak.” They predict that the upcoming cycle, No. 25, may follow suit, but there are a range of views. Some scientists say the latest data point to a stronger cycle.

The solar cycle forecast was made public at the annual Space Weather Workshop last week, hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre.

Lisa Upton, a solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corporation and co-chair of the panel issuing predictions, said Cycle 25 should begin between mid 2019 and late 2020 and that it should reach its maximum between 2023 and 2026, when between 95 and 130 sunspots are projected. Average is between 140 and 220 sunspots.

Cycle 24 peaked in April 2014 with 116 sunspots. Should Cycle 25 actually reach the predicted values, that would stem the trend of the past few cycles that showed a continued decline.

The sunspot number for the peak of the next solar cycle (No. 25) is projected to be slightly higher than the last one (No. 24). (NOAA)

Scott McIntosh, a physicist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, says the latest information would suggest solar cycle 25 may actually be stronger than 24. “The present Geomagnetic data indicate a higher SC25 [solar cycle 25],” he said.

The decline in sunspot activity through cycle 24 was worrisome to some space weather scientists in that it suggested a return to a lengthy “solar drought,” reminiscent of the Maunder Minimum period of 1645-1715. Records show the sun was essentially spotless for this lengthy period, coinciding with the “Little Ice Age” in Europe and tickling the interest of scientists to wonder whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between solar behaviour and Earth’s climate.

The prediction panel, in future work, will attempt to understand better the strength, timing and location of sunspot formation across the sun’s hemispheres and the likelihood of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These are blasts of charged particles off the sun which can disrupt satellite and radio communications, and even power grids in extreme cases.

Frank Hill, a physicist at the National Solar Observatory, detected measurements heralding the start of Cycle 25 about a year ago. The small sample of data available hampers the confidence of prediction, but he estimates Cycle 25 will commence around October.

Solar scientists are most concerned about a major eruption from the sun, which could cause substantial damage to electronic communication systems and power grids. History suggests such extreme events are possible.

During the “Carrington Event” in 1859, for example, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii, according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA wrote. A similar event today would have the potential to cause serious damage to satellite communications and power infrastructure. During weak cycles, such events are less likely but still possible.

“While we are not predicting a particularly active Solar Cycle 25, violent eruptions from the sun can occur at any time,” Doug Biesecker, a solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre, said in a statement.

In any cycle, strong or weak, the strongest solar storms are most likely at the solar maximum, which is projected between 2023 and 2026 in Cycle 25. Pete Riley, a scientist with Predictive Science, said at the recent workshop that the probability of a “Carrington Event” during solar minimum is about 1.4 percent, whereas during solar maximum it balloons to about 28 percent.

The Cycle 25 prediction panel will continue its work and periodically update its forecasts.

On Saturday the 6th of April 2019 at 18h25, Peninsula Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) was activated after a caller reported that an injured hiker was stuck near the summit of Lion’s Head.

WSAR teams who were at the tail end of their rescue standby shift at the Cableway Charity Challenge at Platteklip Gorge Table Mountain, were asked to respond to service this call. The Metro Rescue Mobile Incident Command vehicle, Logistical support 4x4s and Rescue Mountaineers were part of this response.

A medical doctor who happened to be hiking nearby came across the incident and remained with the 25 year old local male while relaying information to the Incident Commander who was stationed at the Staging Area where the trail begins on Signal Hill road. A rapid Response team consisting of Metro Medical Rescue Technicians, Rescue Mountaineers and Rescue Climbers were the first rescuers to reach the scene, and on arrival, they were able to confirm that the injuries were of a serious nature.

A helicopter response was not possible as the sun had already set. The hiker was packaged into a stretcher after which a lengthy manual carry out ensued. The recovery was of a technical nature which involved multiple lengths of rope and specialised climbing and rescue gear being used to lower the patient down very steep cliff sections of the mountain.

The operation lasted approximately 6 hours during which the stretcher was carried to a 4×4 vehicle in which the patient was driven off the mountain. An awaiting ambulance transported him to a medical facility for further treatment.

WSAR would like to wish the gentleman all the best in his healing process.

WSAR also thanks the off duty member of the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services for assisting with the operation after he had spotted the activities at the Staging Area.

Thank you to the WSAR website for news of this rescue.

Finally, good luck to all the Western Cape HAMNET members assisting with the Two Oceans Marathon on Easter Saturday. I’ll have a short report for you on this race next week.

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

HAMNET Report 7 April 2019

Here is a further follow-up on the health implications of the Cyclone in Mozambique. Vox reports that cholera is beginning to spread among the victims of Cyclone Idai

Cholera is an often-deadly intestinal disease. It’s caused by drinking water or food that’s been tainted with sewage and human waste carrying the bacteria Vibrio cholera. Reports indicate that there are more than 1,000 cases of cholera in the port city Beira, Mozambique, and one confirmed death as of Tuesday the 2nd. That’s more than a doubling of cases since the weekend — and that number is expected to rise.

When cholera starts spreading, it can be difficult to control. Outbreaks usually happen when a country’s health, hygiene, and water systems break down — and that’s why they can appear after a natural disaster or amid a humanitarian crisis.

Not everyone who gets cholera falls gravely ill, but about one in ten experience the profuse, watery diarrhoea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration, and sometimes death.

The good news is that if people are treated quickly with rehydration solutions (and sometimes, antibiotics), cholera is survivable. After treatment, the death rate drops from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. There are also effective cholera vaccines.

Thank you to Brian Resnick and Julia Belluz for those notes.

Writing in New Atlas, David Szondy reports that a new study by Queen’s University Belfast and Aberystwyth University indicates that the Sun’s magnetic field is 10 times more powerful than previously thought. By analyzing a solar flare on September 10, 2017 using the Swedish one-meter Solar Telescope at an observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Dr David Kuridze, Research Fellow at Aberystwyth University, was able to determine that the magnetic field is an order of magnitude greater than earlier measurements have suggested.

The Sun’s magnetic field is of more than academic interest. Though the Sun is so far away that its light takes eight minutes to reach us, its magnetic field has tremendous impact on our world.

The solar magnetic field reaches out and defines the limits of the solar system. It shields us from galactic cosmic rays. It confines and directs the massive solar flares that burst from the Sun’s interior and expand to over 20,000 km above its surface.

The solar magnetic field also has more direct effects on us. It can impact terrestrial weather and climate. Its effects form the auroras in the polar regions and it can affect magnetic compasses, GPS, and radio communications. A really big solar magnetic storm might even lead to an electromagnetic pulse event that could knock out the power grid of an entire continent.

According to the new study, the problem is that the Sun’s magnetic field isn’t so easy to measure. Instruments are limited and the Earth’s atmosphere tends to dampen the solar lines of force, making them appear weaker than they really are. But through good fortune and favourable conditions, the researchers were able to gain a clearer picture by turning their telescope to an area of the Sun’s surface they knew to be particularly volatile.

Kuridze says that by observing the Sun over a 10-day period, his team was lucky enough to catch a large flare and by analyzing its structure inside the Sun’s corona, he calculated that the Sun’s magnetic field is 10 times stronger than previously believed. This may sound daunting, but that makes it only about as strong as a fridge magnet, or 100 times less than that of an MRI scanner.

“Everything that happens in the Sun’s outer atmosphere is dominated by the magnetic field, but we have very few measurements of its strength and spatial characteristics,” says Kuridze. “These are critical parameters, the most important for the physics of the solar corona. It is a little like trying to understand the Earth’s climate without being able to measure its temperature at various geographical locations.

“This is the first time we have been able to measure accurately the magnetic field of the coronal loops, the building blocks of the Sun’s magnetic corona, with such a level of accuracy.”

The Air Force Technology website reports this week that Rocket Lab has launched an experimental satellite for the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

The launch sent a prototype reflect array antenna on board Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle to orbit.

DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) mission aims to space-qualify a new type of membrane reflect array antenna to improve radio communications in small spacecraft.

The antenna is made of Kapton membrane and is as thin as a tissue. It is designed to pack tightly inside the R3D2 satellite for stowage during launch, before deploying to its full size of 2.25m in diameter once it reaches low Earth orbit (LEO).

The idea behind the design is to provide the capability of large spacecraft in a much smaller package, removing the need for satellite owners to build large satellites.

The mission took around 18 months from satellite design and development to launch.

In another World Health Organisation report, women outlive men everywhere in the world – particularly in wealthy countries. The World Health Statistics 2019 – disaggregated by sex for the first time – explains why.

The gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy is narrowest where women lack access to health services. In low-income countries, where services are scarcer, 1 in 41 women dies from a cause related to childbirth, compared with 1 in 3300 in high-income countries.

Attitudes to healthcare differ. Where men and women face the same disease, men often seek health care less than women.  In countries with generalized HIV epidemics, for example, men are less likely than women to take an HIV test, less likely to access antiretroviral therapy and more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses than women. Similarly, male TB patients appear to be less likely to seek care than female TB patients.

Of the 40 leading causes of death, 33 causes contribute more to reduced life expectancy in men than in women. In 2016, the probability of a 30-year-old dying from a non-communicable disease before 70 years of age was 44% higher in men than women.

We men are doomed from the start, and that’s the truth!

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