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.