HAMNET Report 18th April 2021

In a message to the Emergency Communications groups around IARU Region 1, on Monday the 12th, Greg Mossop conveyed his thanks to everyone who took part in Sunday’s exercise on JS8call. There had only been a few countries interested when it was discussed on the last conference call, so getting 17 countries listed to take part and putting 40+ stations into 2.5kHz of spectrum was a good show of interest and certainly challenged the mode for performance.

If it had gone perfectly there would have been no point in doing it so Greg was expecting comments from all. He said he would be interested in how many stations we were able to send short messages to and how many formal messages were sent if possible as well as for any messages received.

He is not intending to review all logs as this was intended as an enthusiasm and awareness raising test rather than a formal exercise with control stations etc. but some numbers will help to see if there is an improvement in future.

He already has some observations on message handling and the organisation of the event as well as the good comments about timing of exercises which we will talk about at our next teleconference in May.

In other reports from regional EmCor chiefs, Jul 6W1QL in Senegal, who had not formally registered to take part, found 40m challenging because of interference, but had more success on 20m, in spite of Senegal’s inexperience with the mode.

Jan, PA0NON in the Netherlands, reported many many contacts, but found the band too crowded, and suggested future exercises take place on another 40m frequency to avoid QRM from regular users of the mode.

From Stan OM8ST in the Slovak Republic, we learnt that few amateurs in that country took part, mainly because they were finding the technology difficult to master, and he reports that Slovak amateurs are not very interested in digital modes. He personally learned a lot from the exercise, so his eyes were opened to the mode.

John EI7IG in Ireland found auto responses by some stations he was trying to message blocked attempts to get the messages through, and felt a more structured approach to message passing was probably necessary. John struggled to separate stations taking part in the exercise from regular stations just using the frequency, and basically agreed with Jan’s observation that a different frequency should be used for exercises in future.

Grant ZS1GS in South Africa, reported that band conditions prevented our involvement in DX messaging on 40m, but noted that signals were easily decoded from most parts of South Africa on 40m, between 2 and 5pm, but that DX only opened up after 5pm, after the exercise was over, and then only on 20m. However, he thanked all South African participants for doing their best to be heard in other parts of IARU Region one.

Now, for some real disaster comms, we hear from Donald de Riggs, J88CD on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, who says that on April 13, the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 eruption of the La Soufrière volcano, island residents were awakened to another column of volcanic ash creating a thick blanket obscuring part of the eastern sky as the volcano continues to erupt violently.

“Almost all residents in the Red Zone have been evacuated, save for a few diehards who will not move, for reasons unknown,” he said.

Since the effusive eruption began last December, local hams have been in a state of readiness via 2-meter networks and regional networks via HF. A 24-hour regional HF network and vigil has been active since violent eruptions resumed earlier this month to provide communication support should [the] telephone service be disrupted by the volcanic hazard. This includes a twice-daily link-up on HF with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). There is also a 2-meter gateway via EchoLink on the J88AZ node. The other active VHF repeater is the main resource for domestic communications.

The Grenada repeater, which is linked to St. Lucia and Barbados, is also accessible by hams in Tobago, Trinidad, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Frequencies being used for disaster-related communications may include 3.815, 7.188, or 7.162 MHz. Volcanic ash is also falling in Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, and Grenada.

The La Soufrière volcano on St. Vincent began its most recent series of explosive eruptions on April 9, sending clouds of hot ash some 20,000 feet into the air, blanketing much of the island in ash and causing water and power outages. The volcano is “a constant threat,” according to CDEMA.

A 5-year, $9.3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will allow the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Geophysical Institute to establish a new research observatory at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). A former military facility, HAARP is now operated by UAF and is home to HAARP Amateur Radio Club’s KL7ERP. The new Subauroral Geophysical Observatory for Space Physics and Radio Science will be dedicated to exploring Earth’s upper atmosphere and geospace environment. The facility’s 33-acre Ionospheric Research Instrument will be the centrepiece of the observatory.

“This NSF support will provide the scientific community increased access to the instruments at the observatory and, hopefully, grow the scientific community,” said Geophysical Institute Director Robert McCoy, the project’s principal investigator.

A second NSF-funded project will add a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) instrument at the site, which will allow the study of other regions of the upper atmosphere. UAF hopes to add additional instruments over time at the Gakona, Alaska, research site.

The research grant will allow scientists to investigate how the sun affects Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere to produce changes in space weather. Their work will help fill gaps in knowledge about the region, which is important because ionospheric disturbances, if severe enough, can disrupt communication systems and damage the power grid.

Research at the observatory is initially expected to include the study of various types of aurora and other occurrences in the ionosphere..

“Amateur radio will clearly benefit with an improved understanding of ionospheric propagation and space weather physics, and providing improved HF propagation prediction modelling data,” HAARP Research Station Chief Engineer and ARRL Life Member Steve Floyd, W4YHD, told ARRL. He said, “Radio science experiments will also provide a valuable data set to encourage development of new radio technologies and modulation methods.”

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

HAMNET Report 11th April 2021

ScienceDaily says Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and collaborators have demonstrated an atom-based sensor that can determine the direction of an incoming radio signal, another key part for a potential atomic communications system that could be smaller and work better in noisy environments than conventional technology.

NIST researchers previously demonstrated that the same atom-based sensors can receive commonly used communications signals. The capability to measure a signal’s “angle of arrival” helps ensure the accuracy of radar and wireless communications, which need to sort out real messages and images from random or deliberate interference.

“This new work, in conjunction with our previous work on atom-based sensors and receivers, gets us one step closer to a true atom-based communication system to benefit 5G and beyond,” project leader Chris Holloway said.

In NIST’s experimental setup, two different-coloured lasers prepare gaseous Caesium atoms in a tiny glass flask, or cell, in high-energy (“Rydberg“) states, which have novel properties such as extreme sensitivity to electromagnetic fields. The frequency of an electric field signal affects the colours of light absorbed by the atoms.

An atom-based “mixer” takes input signals and converts them into different frequencies. One signal acts as a reference while a second signal is converted or “detuned” to a lower frequency. Lasers probe the atoms to detect and measure differences in frequency and phase between the two signals. Phase refers to the position of electromagnetic waves relative to one another in time.

The mixer measures the phase of the detuned signal at two different locations inside the atomic vapour cell. Based on the phase differences at these two locations, researchers can calculate the signal’s direction of arrival.

To demonstrate this approach, NIST measured phase differences of a 19.18 gigahertz experimental signal at two locations inside the vapour cell for various angles of arrival. Researchers compared these measurements to both a simulation and a theoretical model to validate the new method. The selected transmission frequency could be used in future wireless communications systems, Holloway said.

With further development, atom-based radio receivers may offer many benefits over conventional technologies. For example, there is no need for traditional electronics that convert signals to different frequencies for delivery because the atoms do the job automatically. The antennas and receivers can be physically smaller, with micrometre-scale dimensions. In addition, atom-based systems may be less susceptible to some types of interference and noise.

So your future radio receiver might have two lasers embedded in it, and a vapour cell, be able to receive the transmitted signal, and tell you which direction it came from. Impressive indeed!

I watched the pre-flight press briefing for Mars Ingenuity helicopter on Friday night, and the excitement in the demeanours of the group being interviewed was palpable. No earlier than Monday morning (tomorrow) at 09h30 Central African Time, Ingenuity will be programmed to spin up its rotors to 2500 rpm, and attempt to fly up to an altitude of 3 metres, hover there for 30 seconds and then return gently to the ground. It will be observed from a distance of about 60 metres by Perseverance, taking pre-programmed 2.5 second vignettes of it doing so, hopefully to catch some part of the flight, for immediate download to earth. Far more importantly, all the technical data of the flight will be downloaded  as quickly as possible, so engineers can study all the recorded parameters, to see if it behaved as expected, or developed flight anomalies impossible to predict before the time.

If successful, this flight will be the first flight off a planet’s surface since the Wright brothers managed to do it on Earth on 17th December 1903, so these special events don’t come round very often!

If you are near an internet connection, watch the event live tomorrow morning from 09h30 our time, as nasa.gov/nasalive streams it, or download the NASA app on all the usual platforms, or watch it on YouTube or FaceBook channels. There may not be much to see, but history is being made, so try to be a part of it!

Now for the computer gamers amongst us, MedicalExpress reports that Elon Musk’s Neuralink start-up has managed to get a Macaque monkey called Pager to play the video game called Pong, using thought only.

The monkey, with electrodes implanted on both sides of his brain, was monitored while he played Pong with a joystick, so that researchers could learn how to interpret his brain waves while he controlled the joystick. A banana-smoothie through a straw was used to reward him for his successful actions.

Then the joystick was removed, and he was given the game scene on the screen to contemplate, and he was able to move the paddles using only brain-wave monitoring and no physical activity on his part. He became amazingly good at MindPong by thought association!

[Note two things: firstly this was a male monkey, and secondly he was satisfied with the relatively insignificant reward of a banana smoothie. I think all the women in the world will snort and speculate that all men are more closely related to monkeys than they are!]

However, the researchers suggest that the decoder in the computer software could be calibrated to enable a person to guide a cursor on a computer screen, potentially letting them type emails, text messages, or browse the internet just by thinking, according to a blog post at neuralink.com.

“Our first goal is to give people with paralysis their digital freedom back,” the Neuralink team said in the post.

Members of the team last year shared a “wish list” that ranged from technology returning mobility to the paralyzed and sight to the blind, to enabling telepathy and the uploading of memories for later reference—or perhaps to be downloaded into replacement bodies.

For now, Neuralink is being tested in animals with the team working on the potential for clinical trials.

I’m sure even the women of the world will agree these lofty ideals outweigh the time wastage demonstrated by your teenage son on the couch all weekend playing video games, drinking non-nutritious stuff and eating junk-food when he should have been out there conquering the world!

This is Dave Reece reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 4th April 2021

Reliefweb.int reports that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers has endorsed the offer by Mozambique to host the SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC) which will be responsible for facilitating enhanced regional disaster risks preparedness, response and early recovery to support Member States affected by disasters.

The Council of Ministers held a virtual meeting on 12th March, 2021 to discuss policies, strategies and programmes geared towards consolidating SADC regional integration in fulfilment of Council’s mandate as spelt out in Article 11 of the SADC Treaty. Honourable Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Mozambique, chaired the meeting in her capacity as the Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers.

The SADC Council noted that the SHOC will enhance the coordination of support towards Member States affected by disasters.

The SADC Region has over the years stressed the need to strengthen climate resilience as well as general preparedness against natural disasters such as droughts, cyclones and floods. These multiple hazards have highlighted the importance of cooperation and coordinated response, as well as the need to come up with innovative mechanisms to strengthen resilience, preparedness and responsiveness for disasters, including pandemics, epidemics and related hazards.

In the past few decades, the SADC Region has experienced an increasing frequency and severity of droughts, floods, cyclones and locusts that have been attributed to climate change and variability, resulting in food insecurity and other socio-economic impacts.

The Region has faced a number of weather-related phenomena such as tropical cyclones which caused extensive flooding in SADC Member States such as the Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Cyclone Idai, which hit the Region in 2020, was recorded as one of the worst tropical storms ever to affect Africa and the southern hemisphere.

The 2019 annual report of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said 91 percent of all major disasters and 77 percent of economic losses from natural disasters during the year were attributed to extreme weather events.

This percentage is expected to increase as the World Meteorological Organisation has projected that global temperatures would rise by between three and five degrees Celsius by 2100.

In FreeNews, John Kessler has written about the new ionospheric weather prediction capabilities which Russia will have with its Satellite System “Arktica-M”.

He says: “The instruments of the complex installed on the “Arktika-M” will monitor the characteristics of the near-earth environment during solar flares and geomagnetic storms.

“Space weather affects the conditions of radio communications, and the setting of flight restrictions for aircraft pilots. If it is predicted, then it is possible to prepare for incidents on power grids and exclude events when large-scale power outages occur due to strong magnetic storms.” End quote.

Alexey Kovalev, chief designer of the RKS heliogeophysical instrumentation complex, has said:

“GGAK-VE should measure the values of the Earth’s magnetic field in orbit, [and] cosmic fluxes of electrons and protons. Some of the measurements will be carried out for the first time. The complex was created in cooperation with the leading institutes of the industry: the Institute of Applied Geophysics named after academician E.K. Fedorov, the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the D.V. Skobeltsin Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov. The complex has unified instruments that also operate in a continuous mode on the Electro-L geostationary spacecraft.”

John continues: “The space system ‘Arktika-M’ will continuously provide operational information about the state of the atmosphere and surface of the Arctic region of the Earth to the Hydro-Meteorological Centre of Russia.

“This will improve the accuracy of the models when making short-term weather forecasts, help track emergencies and carry out environmental monitoring of the environment.”

Thanks to John Kessler for this report.

Now when last did you drop an expensive radio and feel your heart sink into your boots? Well NASA is quite happy about what they’re going to drop.

Nasa.gov says engineers will drop a 6350kg test version of the Orion spacecraft into the “Hydro Impact Basin” at NASA’s Langley Research Centre’s Landing and Impact Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia at 1:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 6. (What is a Hydro Impact Basin, I hear you ask? Well, that means they’re going to drop it into a dammetjie of water!)

The test will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency’s website, and will livestream on multiple agency social media platforms, including the Facebook channels for Orion and Langley.

This series of drop tests began March 23 to finalize computer models for loads and structures prior to the Artemis II flight test, NASA’s first mission with crew aboard Orion. Artemis II will carry astronauts around the Moon and back, paving the way to land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface and establish a sustainable presence at the Moon under the Artemis programme. The current test series builds on previous tests and uses a configuration of the crew module based on the spacecraft’s final design.

Thank you to Southgate Amateur Radio News for alerting me to that one.

The promotion of electric cars has dramatically increased the demand for lithium-ion batteries. However, cobalt and nickel, the main cathode materials for the batteries, are not abundant. If the consumption continues, it will inevitably elevate the costs in the long run, so scientists have been actively developing alternative materials. A joint research team co-led by a scientist from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has developed a much more stable, manganese-based cathode material. The new material has higher capacity and is more durable than the existing cobalt and nickel cathode materials—90% of capacity is retained even when the number of charging-recharging cycles doubled. Their findings shed light on developing low cost and high efficiency manganese-based cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

“The capacity of the LiCoO2 cathode material currently applied in electronic products like smartphones is about 165mAh/g, while our LiMnO2 cathode material has already achieved a capacity as high as 254.3mAh/g, which is much higher,” Dr. Liu, head of the research team, and assistant Professor in the Department of Physics (PHY) at CityU elaborated. “It is difficult for commercial LiCoO2 to maintain 90% capacity even at 1,000 cycles. And our material has achieved high capacity retention of 90.4% after 2,000 cycles, demonstrating a long cycle life,” he added.

The net effect would be to allow more recharge cycles of your lithium battery, and reduce the demand for this scarce material. Sounds promising to me..

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

HAMNET Report 28th March 2021

In a message to his regional directors, National HAMNET Director Grant Southey ZS1GS reports that he and Brian Jacobs attended a virtual meeting of the IARU Region 1 emergency communications leaders on 27th February. It was interesting to note that JS8Call was discussed a few times for Emmcomm use. Happily, SA seems to be doing very well in this field.

Greg Mossop, the Region1 co-ordinator took a liking to South Africa’s use of it during JS8Call parties and would like for us Region1operators to play with the mode during the 11/12 April QSO party.  He is proposing that we concentrate on the period 12h00-15h00UTC on the 11th, and we use the call group @R1emcor for transmissions.

Greg is looking at ways to communicate with South Africa and Grant hopes we can show him that we are more than capable.

In an interesting diversion from what we regard as a normal DXPedition, the concept of a radio-in-a-box has been developed, in a waterproof Pelican case, which is dropped off on a DXPedition site, with generator and antennas, and then operated remotely, from on board a nearby vessel. This obviates the common problem where operators are not allowed to stay on the island overnight, and so cannot take advantage of night-time conditions there, or better propagation at other times of day in other parts of the world. The ship-to-shore link has been tested with a Ubiquiti data bridge on 900 MHz, and this type of low-profile expedition may become the norm in sensitive geographical areas.

George Wallner, AA7JV, has been operating as C6AGU from Deep Water Cay in the Bahamas, during March, and tested this setup, to appease the concerns of environmental protection agencies that oppose camping on protected land. George’s setup contains a FLEX-6700 and an amplifier, and operators in his group include W6IZT, W8HC, and KN4EEI.

So far, all tests of the system have been deemed to be very successful. Thank you to the ARRL Letter of March 25th, for news of this clever development.

Now here’s a very clever technology, reported on in UASweekly.com. They report:

NEC Laboratories Europe has prototyped new, AI-enabled drone technology that quickly locates natural disaster victims using their mobile phones or smart devices in areas with damaged or no cellular infrastructure.

Finding disaster victims is slow and resource intensive. To locate victims, emergency response teams rely on line-of-sight or being in close proximity, and mortality rates are often high. NEC’s new prototype technology, SARDO (Search-And-Rescue DrOne), greatly expands search and rescue capabilities by using an autonomous drone as a mobile cellular base station to identify signals from smart devices of victims as it flies nearby.

Existing device tracking technology, such as GPS or standard cellular trilateration, is not suited for natural disaster situations. GPS tracking requires that a disaster victim be in possession of a GPS-enabled smart device and that GPS tracking be active at the time of the disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or snow avalanche, cellular network infrastructure may not be working, or the disaster may have occurred in an area with inadequate coverage like a remote, mountainous region. This limits or prevents network operators from locating victims using their mobile phone signals.

SARDO fills this gap by incorporating the functionality of a cellular base station into an autonomous drone. Using pseudo-trilateration SARDO, as a mobile base station, acts as a single anchor that retrieves multiple distance measurements from a disaster victim’s smart device, taken by the drone over its flight time. The SARDO drone uses machine learning to calculate the position of a victim’s device even when that person is moving. The drone continually adjusts itself based on their predicted motion until it has identified the exact position of a victim. Says Antonio Albanese, Research Associate at NEC Laboratories Europe: “SARDO brings together the increasingly higher penetration rate of smart devices in our society and the ability of drones to reach harsh locations. We can now combine these technologies to build a standalone localization system that effectively supports first responders in disaster recovery operations. Requiring no pre-deployment effort, it can be up-and-running within minutes and keep the related deployment complexity to a minimum.”

SARDO works by identifying the unique identification number of a disaster victim’s eSIM or SIM card using the resource control connection that it establishes with a base station. With required emergency approvals, the SARDO drone can search for both a specific victim and all unknown victims within a given region. In collaboration with the network operator, search and rescue teams can also communicate directly with a victim via their devices. In large disasters with many victims, multiple SARDO drones can be used to scale up search and rescue efforts.

In earthquakes, damage to buildings is often extensive and rubble hampers search and rescue efforts. SARDO identifies rubble as a propagation environment and, by compensating for this, can predict a victim’s current location in it. In principle, this same technique is used by SARDO to identify channel artefacts produced by different propagation environments such as snow caused by avalanches or water in times of flooding.

Using commonly available parts, any commercial drone or UAV that meets disaster zone search and rescue requirements can be converted and deployed as a SARDO. This makes it extremely versatile in meeting the needs of different disaster response teams.

So, in summary, this is a more sophisticated way for a drone to calculate where that cell phone signal is coming from, while it desperately tries to ping its out-of-reach cell tower, without relying on the presence or absence of a GPS location. This should work even with my old Nokia 2110!  Thanks to UASweekly.com for the report.

It being the week before Easter, and Pesach week currently in progress, may I wish you all happy Easter and happy Pesach, and encourage all of us to remain safe, and healthy by following the rules of this pandemic game we are dicing with, and at the same time radio-active, and willing to be of help to your fellow South African. With the threat of the start of a third wave of the pandemic hovering in front of us, it behoves us to be responsible in our actions and activities.

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

HAMNET Report 21st March 2021

In a letter to the editor of the ARES weekly newsletter, Doug McCray K2QWQ notes that, with an increasing number of bad actors with EMP (electromagnetic pulse) devices these days, the disruption of a country’s electronic infrastructure is tempting. Many veteran radio amateurs have older V/UHF/HF mobile radios and handhelds, and it may be a good idea to store them in a small steel trash can, along with a roll of RG58, a mag mount or other kind of antenna, and light line to hoist the antenna into a tree. There is little or no cost involved, and this puts older gear to potential use in an EMP incident.

While not too likely, the military and other government entities do pay attention to the possibility of such an incident that could cripple the internet, power grid, twisted pair telephone line, and much of the sensitive modern lower voltage circuitry.

Many hams licensed since the end of the cold war may have little or no knowledge of what an EMP blast can do, and how difficult it is to protect against. “When all else fails” means being prepared for the unlikely.

Food for thought and an easy plan to put into action. Doug is in South Jersey.

Writing in EDN this week, John Dunn, an electronics consultant, and a graduate of the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, and New York University, wonders whether the SETI project has receivers with sufficient sensitivity to do signal detections via attenuations through interstellar paths of many hundreds of decibels.

He says: “Trying to find radio signals originating from extra-terrestrial civilizations presents huge technical challenges, one of which is path loss between other stars and our home planet. Neglecting the possible effects of obstacles such as dust clouds, basic geometry creates a detection problem all on its own.

“Project SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is looking for extra-terrestrial radio signals coming from other star systems. If we construct cones from those star systems, each with its point at the star in question and with Earth at the centre of the circular plane of that cone, we can compare the path attenuation from that far away star to the Earth versus the normalized path attenuation from the Moon to the Earth.

“The extra-solar path from Proxima Centauri, our sun’s closest interstellar neighbour, is approximately 4.3 light years. A radio beam traveling from there to the Earth would experience approximately 160 dB more signal attenuation than the beam path to the Earth from the Moon.

“The so-called local star group consists of those stars within 50 light years from here, for which the attenuation worsens to approximately 180 dB versus the beam path from the Moon. At distances of 1000 light years to 10 billion light years, the attenuation worsens further.

“If an extra-terrestrial civilization were using radio communications as we do, their antennas would not be especially different from our own because everyone would be constrained by the same laws of physics. I’m sure they would also have phased arrays and parabolic reflectors.

“Any transmissions they would likely make would not be especially targeted to reach us here. We would be searching for radio signals that just incidentally happen to come our way and such signals would experience the inferred path attenuations mentioned above.”

Would we hear them?

John says “I honestly don’t know, but it is one tall order indeed!”

Thank you to him and EDN for these excerpts from his article.

Now, here’s something in the “did you know” department.

Visitors to Greenland often believe that the colourful houses in every town are an inspired idea to add brightness to a monochromatic arctic setting. But they would be wrong.

After Hans Egede arrived in Greenland in 1721, Scandinavian culture began to impose itself on the new colony. Prefab houses were shipped north as kits, and buildings with a certain function generally had the same colour. In an era without street names or numbers, this made some of the key municipal buildings easier to identify.

Since most Greenlanders at the time couldn’t read, the colours also served as commercial signs. If you wanted something from the store, you looked for a red building. If you needed a hospital, you headed for the yellow building. Fishermen would bring their catch to a blue structure, indicating the local fish plant.

Nowadays, many of the colours are simply decorative, although some buildings still follow the old tradition. And residents need approval before painting: Nonconformists can’t express their individuality by going for an outlandish colour that clashes with every other house in town.

And here is the key to the colour palette of Greenland houses:

Red: Churches and stores, including the houses where the priest or shop owner lived. This is the most commonly used colour.

Yellow: Hospitals, including the houses where the doctors or nurses lived.

Green: Radio communications, or later, telecommunications buildings in general.

Black: Police.

Blue: Factories, fish plants.

Hmm, my house is a peachy-apricot colour. I think mine would have been recognised as the local madhouse!

Thanks to Explorersweb for that interesting snippet.

Finally, our friends at Southgate say that the IARU Region 1 Monitoring System newsletter reports that Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR) continues to be the biggest source of interference in the HF amateur radio bands

They also say “The mysterious groups of dashes (sometimes 5 dashes, sometimes 16 dashes, sometimes continuous dashes) keep on being transmitted during long hours almost daily on 7075 kHz and its near surroundings inside the segment of the 40 m band dedicated for FT-8 transmissions. They are very difficult to locate, and we still don’t know where they come from?”

The report was in their February 2021 newsletter, and can be found at www.iarums-r1.org.

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

HAMNET Report 14th March 2021

I told you last week that the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge trail run would take place on 22nd May, seeing that Covid restrictions had been relaxed a bit. Well the plans have been scuppered, and not by Covid. A huge mountain fire in the Jonkershoek area about a week ago has so damaged the environment that Cape Nature has decided to close the reserve for at least 4 months to allow the vegetation to recover. So either the trail run will be postponed, or possibly cancelled altogether. Our HAMNET volunteers are highly disappointed by this, but understand the importance of the recovery of the fynbos there.

Registration is now open for the 2021 HamSCI Workshop, Friday and Saturday, March 19 – 20. The theme of this year’s workshop is mid-latitude ionospheric science. The University of Scranton will serve as host for the Zoom virtual event, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program will include guest speakers, poster presentations, and demonstrations.

The workshop will also serve as a team meeting for the HamSCI Personal Space Weather Station project, funded by an NSF grant to University of Scranton physics and electrical engineering professor Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF. The project seeks to harness the power of an amateur radio network to better understand and measure the effects of weather in the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere.

The workshop’s keynote address on the “History of Radio” will be given by Elizabeth Bruton, curator of technology and engineering at the Science Museum of London. She will discuss the history, science, technology, and licensing of radio amateur communities from the early 1900s to the present, exploring how individuals and communities contributed to “citizen science” long before the term entered popular usage in the 1990s. Bruton has been a non-licensed member of Oxford and District Amateur Radio Society since 2014 and has served as the society’s web manager since 2015.

Michael Ruohoniemi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech and principal investigator of the Virginia Tech SuperDARN Initiative, will review the physics of the mid-latitude ionosphere and discuss ways in which the amateur radio community can contribute to advancing scientific understanding and technical capabilities.

Joe Dzekevich, K1YOW, will present “Amateur Radio Observations and The Science of Mid-latitude Sporadic E.”

Now remember all of South Africa falls within the mid-latitude description, so this kind of scientific research can be done by each and every one of us. So go to hamsci.org/hamsci2021 and register to be included in the Zoom conference next weekend. Registration is free.

We’ve all seen pictures of hurricanes when they batter a coastline somewhere on the planet. But what if we told you the same thing happened in space?

Writing in Gentside this week, David Stein says that typical hurricanes are easy to spot on satellite images: swirling clouds surround a quieter ‘eye.’ These storms typically form in the lowest layer of the atmosphere, closer to the Earth’s surface, and they trigger heavy rains and high winds.

Space hurricanes are totally different beasts altogether.

A study published last month in the journal Nature Communications describes the first space hurricane ever observed. In August 2014, satellites observed a swirling mass with a calm centre more than 200 kilometres above the North Pole. While ordinary hurricanes stir air, this space hurricane was a vortex of plasma, a type of extremely hot charged gas found throughout the solar system around strong magnetic fields. And instead of rain, this storm brought electron showers.

Michael Lockwood, an astronomer at the University of Reading (England), and co-author of the new study, said in a press release:

“Until now, it was not clear whether space plasma hurricanes existed, so to prove it with such a striking observation was incredible.”

The space hurricane was nearly 1,000 kilometres wide and was high in the sky – it formed in the ionosphere, between 80 and 965 kilometres above sea level. Michael Lockwood and his co-authors used satellite data to create a 3D model of the storm.

The space hurricane lasted eight hours, swirling counter-clockwise. According to the researchers, it had several spiral arms sticking out of its centre, much like a spiral galaxy. By connecting satellite data to a computer model, Michael Lockwood and his colleagues were able to reproduce the storm and determine its cause. They found that charged particles emitted from the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, were responsible for the storm.

This constant flow of solar particles and coronal plasma is known as the solar wind. It travels at about 1.5 million kilometres per hour.

These space hurricanes must be created by the exceptionally large and rapid transfer of energy from the solar wind and charged particles into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

When the solar wind reaches the Earth, it meets the magnetic field of the planet. The Earth has such a field due to the swirling of liquid iron and nickel in its outer core, and it generates electric currents. The magnetosphere shields the planet from deadly radiation from the sun, but also retains a tiny layer of plasma from this solar wind.

In general, solar winds bounce of this protective sheath. But sometimes the charged particles and the incoming plasma interact with the trapped plasma or the electric currents that generate the field. Such interactions create disturbances in the magnetosphere.

The 2014 space hurricane was the result of one of these disturbances.

The study’s authors suggested that an interaction between the Earth’s magnetic field and parts of the solar magnetic field – carried by the solar wind – contributed to the formation of the hurricane.

Usually, magnetic fields do not mix. But if they get closer, parts of the fields can realign and even merge, forming a new pattern of magnetic energy. This is probably what happened on the day of the space storm: an influx of solar wind energy formed a new configuration above the Earth’s magnetic north pole.

The storm acted as a channel from space to Earth’s atmosphere, channelling some electrons beyond the planet’s protective cover.

This shower of particles could have wreaked havoc on our high-frequency radio communications, our radar detection systems or our satellite technology, according to the study’s authors. This is because charged solar particles that infiltrate the Earth’s magnetic field can cause malfunctions in the computers and circuits of satellites and the International Space Station. Fortunately, in this case, no problem was observed.

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

HAMNET Report 7th February 2021

That endless source of news, Southgate Amateur Radio News reminds us this week that the YouTube channel called “Ham Radio Perspectives” carries an interview Tom, WA9TDD, had with Quin, K8QS, a known communications expert, about how we can grow Amateur Radio. I’m sure this subject is close to the heart of all radio amateurs, gloomily watching the lure of amateur radio being whittled away by the social media channels, and the electronics boffins siphoned off by the hacker community. If I just described you, and you’re alarmed at the state of radio affairs, please watch this video, entitled “How to grow Ham Radio – Part 1” and apply your minds to a solution to the problem.

The Western Cape Regional Director of HAMNET, Michael, ZS1MJT says that the Wildrunner Organisation has been the first to step up to the plate, and announce a recommencement of their mountain trail running series, now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted a bit. The Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge has been set to take place on Saturday, the 22nd of May. How it will take place is not known at this stage, and, frankly, the pandemic could still throw a curved ball, to continue the metaphor, and fox the batter! Time will tell, but Michael is already advertising for a few HAMNET volunteers to assist with the challenging mountain communications during the race. If you’ve assisted before, you will know what fun it can be, and your experience will be greatly appreciated.

Australia started reporting on Tropical Cyclone NIRAN on 1st March, when it formed in the Coral Sea. By the 3rd, its centre was located about 300 km east of the far-north eastern Queensland coast, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 120 km/h. Strong wind and heavy rain have been reported in the Cairns Region (eastern Queensland). According to media, about 42,000 residents experienced power outages. Material damage was reported to several buildings and crops.

NIRAN was forecast to move south-east over the Coral Sea and was likely to approach New Caledonia on 6 March. GDACS’ forecasted track for the cyclone had it just North-West of New Caledonia at midnight UTC on Friday night, and over the island at midday UTC on Saturday. Alert levels were pegged at RED, wind speeds were measured at more than 118km/h, and forecast to rise to 204km/h between Friday and this coming Tuesday.

After New Caledonia, Norfolk Island and Vanuata are projected to be in NIRAN’s path. At the time of writing this, I have not heard of casualties or damage. Let us hope it remains this way.

In an interesting item on their website, the ARRL notes that RF noise is a frequent discussion topic among radio amateurs. A proliferation of electronics has cluttered and complicated the noise environment; it’s not just power lines anymore. Unless isolated from civilization, most hams experience RF interference (RFI) — sometimes without even realizing it, although spectrum scopes on modern transceivers make RF noise much more apparent. Various approaches to address the apparently worsening noise floor have been taken around the world, some addressing lax regulation.

“We all want to enhance our ability to copy the weak ones by increasing our signal-to-noise ratio,” Alan Higbie, K0AV, said in his March/April National Contest Journal article, “Tracking RFI with an SDR, One Source at a Time.” He suggests practical methods for individual radio amateurs to improve their own noise environment. “We can do that by reducing the noise on each band that we operate. Lowering the noise floor increases the relative signal strength of weak signals. Those in typical residential environments find that locating and eliminating RFI sources is a never-ending process. It is much like weeding a garden.”

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) warns against complacency. “Radio amateurs cannot sit back, because even if the desired noise limits are agreed, there are many rogue manufacturers and dealers who will happily sell noise-generating devices, leaving out filter circuits to cut costs,” IARU said in a statement. IARU has urged member-societies to get involved.

Thanks once again to the ever-observant Southgate Amateur Radio News for spotting that one.

This coming Thursday the 11th marks the tenth anniversary of the magnitude 9   earthquake that struck Japan in 2011, just east of the Miyagi Prefecture, moving Japan’s Honshu Island 2.4 metres to the East, and creating tsunami waves estimated to have been up to 16.7 metres high. Almost all the deaths in the disaster were caused by the tsunami, and the toll was staggering. Confirmed deaths now stand at 15899, and another 2577 people are still unaccounted for 10 years later.

The biggest problem was the flooding by the tsunami of three of the Fukashima nuclear power reactors, which promptly melted down, and further damage to a fourth one.

A decade later, the decommissioning of Fukushima is still moving slowly, with the entire process expected to take decades.

Challenges include disposing of a growing amount of water contaminated by radiation. Once put through a filtration process, most radioactive elements are removed, but releasing the water into the sea — as recommended by some officials — remains a controversial option.

An evacuation zone of 20 kilometres around the reactors was immediately declared, and nearly 165000 people were evacuated from that area. Many more further away from the power station left the area voluntarily. Ten years later, 2.4% of Fukashima is still a no-go area.

Four hundred and thirty non-contiguous kilometres of seawall will eventually be   constructed or reconstructed, 80% of which is now complete, and the project will finally cost US $12 billion once finished.

Amazing to think that a decade has passed since that one, and more than 16 years since the undersea earthquake in the Indonesian sea that created the tsunami that took over a quarter of a million lives along all the coastlines surrounding that epicentre, on Boxing day 2004.

All of which pales into insignificance next to the death toll from the miniscule Coronavirus causing the current Pandemic, which has so far claimed two and a half million lives, in one short year.

It seems to me we are becoming stunned into submission by the extent of the disasters that befall us with the passage of time, having no choice but to shrug our collective shoulders, and move on with our lives, battle-scarred as we have become.

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

HAMNET Report 28th February 2021

HAMNET REPORT 28TH FEBRUARY 2021

Greg Mossop G0DUB, IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Coordinator reports that he has decided not to organise a meeting at Friedrichshafen this year.

He says “Even with vaccinations and the many restrictions on movements in countries, the COVID pandemic is still causing disruption and uncertainty. For me to travel out of the UK at the moment, my employer would make me take the 10 day isolation required when I returned to the UK as time off or not be paid for that time… To meet the health requirements I would also have to have four COVID tests to meet the UK and German government requirements to get in and out of each country.

“For a three day event this is not realistic.

“Friedrichshafen has also had to rearrange the hall and conference layouts to meet health requirements in Germany and there is more pressure on meeting room space with proposals that some presentations would still be made by video link from conference rooms, [so] the large room we normally use is likely to be in great demand for other meetings. It felt better to take this decision early to help everyone plan.”

Duly noted, Greg, and I think you have made the correct decision.

Southgate Amateur Radio News notes this week that the organizers of this same International Amateur Radio Exhibition at Friedrichshafen are optimistic that they will be able to provide a meeting place for the industry from June 25 to 27, 2021. With German Amateur Radio Club e.V. (DARC) as the perfect sponsor, the course is now being set for the 45th edition of the Ham Radio show. “We are watching the situation closely, of course. At the moment we are assuming that we will be able to hold the Ham Radio weekend in accordance with an extensive, tried-and-proven safety and hygiene concept, and are looking forward to seeing everyone again at Europe’s most important trade fair for amateur radio,” explains Messe Friedrichshafen CEO Klaus Wellmann.

For the upcoming Ham Radio show, there will be a new hall layout for a variety of reasons. The commercial exhibitors and associations will be occupying Halls A3 and A4, and the radio amateurs will be able to make exciting discoveries at the flea market in Halls B1 and B2. In this way there will be plenty of space available for both exhibitors and visitors. Instead of taking place on the stage in Foyer West, presentations will be given in the conference rooms and transmitted via video stream.

“This year the Ham Radio Exhibition will again be presenting a wide range of measuring instruments, antennas, and electrical engineering equipment. However, the event will differ a bit from what was seen in previous years. For example, the number of live presentations is being reduced, and there will be no youth camp and no HAM-Rally. Tickets can only be purchased online,” Project Manager Petra Rathgeber says. DARC is currently pulling out all the stops to prepare for the 71st meet-up on Lake Constance. The Ham Radio is the world’s first amateur radio exhibition to be held since the pandemic began.

If it is held, it will be because a large number of Europeans will have had a vaccine by June, and June is almost mid-summer on Lake Constance, and social distancing and ventilation will not be difficult if the weather is good. However it is not all plain sailing yet. We wait to see.

News24.com reported on Friday that the NSRI has appealed to the public to avoid the Bos 400 shipwreck in Hout Bay, after three separate rescue operations at the site in a month. The site poses serious dangers to both the public and the emergency responders, said the NSRI. The latest rescue took place on Saturday the 20th, when a group of students was at the wreck.

“One member of the group, a young man, had suffered a non-fatal drowning accident, and was suffering from hypothermia. It appears that while swimming toward the wreck he was caught in currents that naturally swirl around the wreck,” NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said.

The group admitted they had gone to the wreck to jump into the water from the crane and from the superstructure.  Earlier this month, in two separate incidents, a young woman and a young man were injured while jumping off the Bos crane into the sea.

“The concern is that increased recreational activity in and around the wreck may lead to something more serious and we are strongly urging the public to stay clear of this wreck,” he said.

The South African Maritime Safety authority has posted signage prohibiting the boarding of the wreck due to the corroding and collapsing metal infrastructure.

“Over the years, the wreck has corroded significantly. It is simply a matter of time before corrosion causes more of the crane and the superstructure to collapse, creating an extremely dangerous environment for the unsuspecting public, who, it appears, are being encouraged to use the wreck for recreational purposes,” Lambinon said.

It is also extremely difficult to conduct rescue operations in the area.

“As a result of there being limited cell signal coverage and reduced radio communications in the barely accessible terrain, rescue operations at the wreck have at times involved multiple rescue resources, at incredible cost, not only financially, but also posing risks to the rescuers themselves,” Lambinon said. He strongly recommended that the public avoid the serious dangers the wreck poses. The Bos 400 ran aground in June 1994.

Our National Director, Grant Southey ZS1GS has announced that the HAMNET Training Manual has been revised, and has been sent to divisional directors for their comments and corrections, before being implemented as HAMNET SA’s default manual.

In his communique to the Directors, he encouraged them all in turn to encourage their members to participate in the Hamnet 40 metre Simulated Emergency Contest on the 7th of March. This is a good opportunity to use one’s station disconnected from the mains, or out mobile or at a site in the countryside, to test one’s ability to be of use if a disaster strikes. Please see the SARL Headquarters’ news for the contest details.

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

HAMNET Report 21st February 2021

I’m sure anybody who lives in the Eastern half of South Africa is watching the development of Tropical Cyclone Guambe in the Mozambique Channel with interest. There have been dramatic time-lapse videos of the cloud formation as the storm starts to build. Forecasts during this last week have suggested the cyclone will turn east as it passes the southern tip of Madagascar and travel off harmlessly into the Indian Ocean. We continue to watch. The northern half of South Africa has already had its fair share of rain this rainy season, as pictures of the Orange River in full spate at the Augrabies Falls show. Let’s hope we get off this cyclone lightly.

Meanwhile the Southern United States, Texas and Indiana in particular, are experiencing bitterly cold weather. Snow, sleet, rain, and sub-zero temperatures abound, and there are stories of people sleeping inside tents inside their houses, on the grounds that it is easier to keep the small area inside the tent warm than it is to keep the whole house warm. Snowfalls of up to 30cm were measured in some towns.

The Washington Post reports that “millions of Texans remain without power for what could be days, and hospitals throughout Texas have now lost water and heat, leaving doctors scrambling to conserve resources and coronavirus vaccine shots while caring for vulnerable residents.”

The ARRL News reports that ARES volunteers in Southern Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, and Alabama are either on standby or have been activated to carry messages and assist the communities where required. A strong unseasonal tornado hit eastern North Carolina on Monday, killing three people and destroying homes. Twenty eight others have died in the extreme weather across the country.

The New Zealand Herald reports this week that a crew of 12 Land Search and Rescue volunteers, as well as members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications group were involved this week in the search for an elderly Invercargill man missing from his rest home since Monday.

He apparently has trouble communicating, due to a stroke, has limited mobility and is unlikely to approach anyone.

Police were contacted about his disappearance on Monday, about 1pm, and search and rescue volunteers were involved from about 5pm. He was last seen at the rest home at 8am. Since then, residential areas, Queens Park, the railway tracks, green spaces and the Otepuni Stream have been searched, some areas more than once.

Sgt Martin of the Invercargill Police said the search had involved dog handlers and kayakers going down the stream. Those involved were extremely concerned for his welfare, given that the temperature dropped to 1.3deg Celsius on Tuesday night.

Local residents were asked to search their properties, even if they have previously searched them, as the man was believed to be on foot and might have wandered on to a property. People with CCTV cameras on their properties were asked to review the footage and submit it to police if they saw anyone who looked like the lost man.

We can only hope the search ends happily.

I’m sure a large proportion of you sat up on Thursday evening, and watched while the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team supervising Perseverance’s landing on Mars bit their fingernails to the bone, waiting for the delayed news of its safe landing. Everything had to be automatic of course, because a one-way radio trip to Percy, as she is affectionately called by her controllers, takes 11 minutes. So there’s no immediate decision-making going on there. Percy had to make up her own mind where and how to land, and she did.

The difference with this lander, of course, was that JPL was not disconnected from her during the landing, because she was able to relay telemetry to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) above her during those 7 minutes of terror.

But did you know that a team of five people came together to create a social media persona for Perseverance. On Twitter and Facebook, the team has worked hard to show that Perseverance is a “boss.” The team messages in English and Spanish.

Ultimately, they were just trying to bring everybody along with the mission. They got together and thought about what makes this rover different. What makes this rover different from the others that have gone before it? What was different about its story?

And it wasn’t about just giving a voice to Perseverance. The rover has a personality; a drive to succeed that informs its choices. Linda Rivera, a digital and social media specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who on Thursday monitored Perseverance’s Facebook account, said the character-creation processes included deep thoughts about things like the rover’s hobbies.

Amusingly, according to Twitter, those hobbies are photography, collecting rocks and off-roading!

“I’m safe on Mars” was the first tweet to emerge after she landed safely on Thursday evening, our time.  “Perseverance will get you anywhere”, was another! So was “I’ve come nearly 300 million miles, and I’m just getting started”.

“If Perseverance is anything, she’s a boss,” said Stefanie Smith, the JPL’s digital and social media lead. “She’s the biggest, most ambitious rover we’ve ever sent to the surface of another planet. She’s got a rock vaporizing laser on her head, just like Curiosity did.

“But she’s unlike Curiosity, who, while charming, isn’t as capable as Perseverance. Curiosity can’t walk and chew gum. Curiosity can’t drive and think about driving at the same time. Perseverance can. Perseverance has a second brain and if Perseverance had gone to college, she would have been summa [cum laude]. But she’s also super-lovable.”

The Twitter account has been providing updates on Perseverance since March 2020. It got started by letting the world know its name.

“Call me Perseverance,” the account’s first tweet reads. It adds: “I’m headed for Mars: driven to search for signs of ancient life, test new tech to help future human explorers, and collect the first rock samples for future return to Earth.”

Twitter’s official account responded: “Please find water”!

The nuclear-powered, 1025kg (2,260-pound) rover’s mission is to “seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (i.e. broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth,” according to NASA.

So far, all seems to be going according to plan.

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

HAMNET Report 14th February 2021

I will start by correcting myself regarding the expected touch-down time of the Mars Perseverance lander. I thought it would happen in our morning of the 18th February, but of course, we are ahead of America, and so touch-down is expected at around 21h15 our time that evening, or 2.15pm Eastern Standard Time. I am not sure what time NASA TV will start transmitting but YouTube is the place to look. Don’t forget!

Incidentally, a satellite from the United Arab Emirates and one from China were due to arrive at and be inserted into orbit around Mars this past week. This is the first time that satellites from three different countries all arrive at Mars within a few days of each other!

The ARRL says in its news that the hamradio.org domain has been donated to the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) for non-profit educational use to promote the amateur and amateur satellite services, by its owner Andrew J. Wolfram KI7RYC.

In accepting this gift, IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH, said, “The hamradio.org domain offers a unique opportunity for which we are deeply grateful to Andrew. It is our intention to develop a website that can serve as a focal point for anyone, anywhere, who may be seeking information on amateur radio, which is better known as ‘ham radio’ by the general public.”

The IARU is the global federation of national amateur radio organizations with member-societies in more than 160 countries and separate territories. Since its founding in 1925, the IARU has successfully defended and expanded access to the radio spectrum by radio amateurs internationally.

This is a wonderful domain, easy to remember, and likely to be put to good use by the IARU. We join the IARU in expressing gratitude to Andrew.

Jose A Mendez EA9E, EmComm coordinator for Spain in IARU Region1 has informed the mailing list that an exercise called # EMCOMNET2K21 / 1 will be held on February 21, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 13:00 CAT.

In Spain, the effects of the Filomena snowstorm of mid-January isolated many small towns, and so the objective of the exercise will be to establish two special stations EH1NET and EH4NET to support communications on SSB (on 7110.0 kHz ) and two other special stations EH9NET and EH5NET giving message support on the Winlink VARA HF system.

Please be aware of the use of 7110 kHz next Sunday late morning.

Space weather events, triggered by solar emissions and their interactions with Earth’s atmosphere, can have significant effects on communications and navigation technology and on electric power systems. As with terrestrial weather events, the economic impacts of space weather–related disruptions can be substantial, affecting satellite systems as well as systems on the ground. A severe geomagnetic storm could have a catastrophic effect on modern infrastructure. Even solar storms of more ordinary size can induce currents in the power grid that drive up energy prices, affecting manufacturing and commerce.

Considerable interest exists in developing space weather forecasting technologies that use Earth’s ionosphere as a sensor for events in its neighbouring atmospheric layers. The ionosphere occupies a privileged niche in the geospace system, as it is coupled into both the terrestrial weather of the neutral atmosphere below and the space weather of the magnetosphere above.

Although we have a good understanding of ionospheric climate—diurnal and seasonal variations are well known, as are the rhythms of the sunspot cycle—there are new and vital areas of research to be explored. For example, it is known that the ionosphere—and near-Earth space—experiences variability (e.g., radio signals can fade in and out over periods of seconds, minutes, or hours due to changes in ionospheric electron densities along signal propagation paths), but this variability has not been sampled or studied adequately on regional and global scales.

To understand variability fully on small spatial scales and short timescales, the scientific community will require vastly larger and denser sensing networks that collect data on continental and global scales. With open-source instrumentation cheaper and more plentiful than ever before, the time is ripe for amateur scientists to take distributed measurements of the ionosphere—and the amateur radio community is up for the challenge.

The Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) is a collective that unites amateur radio operators with the research community in the space and atmospheric sciences. This confederation of scientists, engineers, and hobbyists holds annual workshops during which ham radio operators and space scientists share findings. A new HamSCI effort, the Personal Space Weather Station project, aims to develop a robust and scalable network of amateur stations that will allow amateurs to collect useful data for space science researchers. The next HamSCI workshop will be held virtually 19–21 March 2021, and it will focus on mid-latitude ionospheric measurements.

Amateur radio operators have an empirical knowledge of space weather because they want to know when and on what frequencies they can establish communications—and when and where they cannot. Changes in the ionosphere like those caused by the day–night transition or by solar activity can impede or aid communications on various frequencies. Amateur radio frequency allocations are distributed throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, enabling useful propagation experiments for any frequency range.

Ham radio is currently experiencing a technical renaissance, thanks to the advent of inexpensive single-board computing platforms and open-source software. Such computer-based systems serve as virtual radio repeaters, connecting computers via the Internet to actual ham radios in the real world to enable remote control and data collection. Beyond the old-fashioned pursuit of voice communication, the lure of maker movement projects and the removal of the Morse code requirement from the amateur licensing exam have led to a greater number of licensed amateurs than ever before.

Thank you to EOS Science News for these paragraphs from their report.

Finally, it being the 14th February today, it is my happy duty to wish all of you in meaningful relationships a happy Valentine’s Day. Today is the day you spoil your significant other rotten, telling your partner how special she or he is to you, which is just long enough for you to slip out, while your better half is glowing with enchantment, to go back to your ham shack for some decent contacts!

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