HAMNET Report 19 November 2017

Inasmuch as solar weather can make the life of an emergency communicator very difficult, I thought I’d tell you about a proposed NASA mission to reveal unprecedented details about solar flares, powerful eruptions that explode with enough energy to interfere with radio communications and satellites near Earth.

The proposed mission, Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager, or FOXSI, was one of five proposals that received Phase-A funding under NASA’s Small Explorer Program.

Although scientists are familiar with the effects of solar flares, they don’t completely understand the physical mechanisms that unleash these bursts of energy and light, or those which power associated clouds of electrons and ions that can be accelerated to near the speed of light.

Once unleashed, the particles affect all the Sun’s atmospheric layers. They pass through the Sun’s outermost layer – the corona where they also are known to originate – and race across the solar system. When they travel toward Earth, the particles and energy can interfere with space-based communications systems or even trip onboard electronics. The more scientists understand this process, the more situational awareness they have to protect assets in space.

“FOXSI is very new and very different,” said Principal Investigator Steven Christe, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who leads the multinational FOXSI team developing the satellite mission.

“We’ve not done a mission like this before. For the first time, we’re going to actually peer into the region where electrons are accelerated by applying technology that was developed to study the faintest sources in the galaxy but now pointed at the Sun.”

The combination of new technologies used is expected to result in a mission that is 20 times more sensitive, 10 times faster at imaging solar-flare events, and 10 to 100 times better at imaging the relatively faint regions within flares.

Thank you to SPACE DAILY for these notes.

Business Day carried a report on Thursday about Western Cape Hospitals drilling new boreholes, or re-activating old ones, to provide extra water on their premises. Tygerberg, Karl Bremer, and Khayelitsha Hospitals have all augmented their supply of water from Province this way. The water is being used at health facilities for “cleaning linen‚ floors‚ toilets‚ scrubbing‚ disinfecting equipment‚ bathing‚ drinking and others”. Water from boreholes was tested at a laboratory for safety before use.

However‚ caution is needed. Chris Jack‚ a researcher at the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town‚ said boreholes were helpful in times of a lack of municipal water supply, but that groundwater extraction “can have negative impacts such as land sinking‚ salt water intrusion in coastal areas like Cape Town‚ and a drop in water quality”.

The department is aware of this‚ and is being careful “not to exhaust the resource”.

And, according to the website of the National Drought Mitigation Centre in the US‚ “health problems related to low water flows and poor-quality water‚ and health problems related to dust‚ reduced incomes and fewer recreational activities” can be expected in any country where a drought unfolds.

Greg Mossop G0DUB reports that Emcomm SPAIN was active yesterday on 40 metres for their national EMCOMSET2k17. The exercise was organised as a “no notice” event, and ran all day. Operations took place around the 40 metre Centre of Activity of 7110 Khz, as well as on another frequency on 40 metres not being announced. They also used frequencies in VHF/UHF as well as DMR and Winlink.

HAMNET Western Cape has been contacted by the organisers of the annual el Shaddai 99er cycle tour in early February next year, who are looking for our usual contingent of volunteers and our APRS support for their ambulance system. So this is an early invitation to Capetonians to join me on the scene on Saturday the 10th February next year. We’ll be sending out further invitations locally.

Then, a reminder that HAMNET in the Western Cape will be assisting the City of Cape Town in a disaster exercise on Thursday the 23rd November. The scenario is a nuclear scare at Koeberg power station. At least 4 operators will be needed between 09h00 and 14h00 on that day, and Alister, ZS1OK will welcome your mail to volunteer at zs1ok.alister@gmail.com if you can help. His volunteer list is almost complete.

Finally, a further inspection of interesting units of measurement, and, in this case, one “New York Second”, defined as the period of time between the traffic lights turning green and the car behind you hooting! A very short time indeed. Perhaps it should be used to describe the time between your signing your callsign on the repeater, and the other fellow answering you!

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