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.