I hope the 10 part series on “How to Work Us” helped you. If it did – please be so kind to leave a comment on this blog post – especially if you learned something that you think might have made the difference between making an ATNO or not.
The Diablo DXers Support Team has fielded over 2100 support tickets – (all possible because we used Freshdesk to manage the “crush” of tickets), and it has opened my eyes to something that might help you more than anything as you pursue your DXing goals – Understanding Propagation. Let me explain.
Antenna Beaming Directions 1400z between KY6R and VK0EK – on 40M. One very important thing to understand is that the “green cloud” will most likely absorb some of your signal – and when you see how close this Auroral Oval is to VK0EK, and then you can see why the path to Africa and Europe is “cloud free” and why there were so many EU QSO’s and on all bands. This oval rotates around – the image here is in the late afternoon – but when I worked VK0EK it was this morning and was rotated in a way that the “cloud’ was minimal. At night though – conditions have not been nearly as good on any band in the short path – and I am sure its because of the “rotation” (and the “thickness”) of the auroral oval. A few days ago – this oval was much more dense.
At 1400z this morning (Friday April 8, 2016), I was able to work VK0EK quite easily on 40M CW. I knew that should be the case – just by using DX Atlas, and also from previously having worked FT5XO, FT5ZM and FT5WJ at the same time and on the “lower” bands. I also knew that with the SFI at 88 and the SSN at 11, that the higher bands would be pretty much dead, but that the low bands up through (maybe) 20M might be good.
What I had not thought much about during this DXpedition is the effect that the Aurora Australis would have. Now – on top of that – I did not think about antenna beaming directions (because on the lower bands) you always “follow the sun”. As the day starts up – a 40M yagi (such as what I have at 50′) needs to be pointed towards VK/ZL or Asia and that this path can be good up to 2 hours past sunrise. Another way to think about this is – you aim a low band antenna into the dark – and a higher band antenna into the sun. Even better yet – you aim your antenna along the grey line either into or away from the sun depending on band and time of day, and of course where you want to work. Heard Island happens to line up perfectly with the grey line or “terminator” – and their sunset and sunrise is exactly 12 hours difference from Orinda. HOWEVER, (yes there are many variables in this game) and that is – as the seasons change – the time you can work stations along the grey line changes.
The crazy thing is that my antenna – which is an N6BT DXU-32 (3 elements on 20M and 2 elements on 40M) up 50′ was beamed on the Short Path (215 degrees):
And VK0EK had their 4 square switched North West. If you look at the diagram at the beginning of this blog – you will see that I was beaming Short Path – and they were beaming Long Path. One thing I do know – from DX Atlas:
My QSO was at 1400z, and the sun and grey lines looked like this . .
There is NO way that my QSO was on the Long Path from Orinda. The rest of the US was in sunlight, and the D Layer would have already starting charging – the more east – the more it would be charged.
Classic example of “follow the sun”. Notice how both VK0EK and FT4JA are exploiting what are surely bands between 40 – 20M right after their sunrise. ALSO – notice how the coordinated band plan has worked like a charm. Great planning and cooperation between the teams!
This means VK0EK and I worked Short Path with me beaming INTO the Dark just south of New Zealand, and then the path curves right over Big Ben and into Atlas Cove. But it still didn’t make sense that they were so strong.
Then I just found out that one of the elements in their 4 square blew down and that all of their verticals are in inches of water (with the feeds still above water).
AHA! – this means the pattern no longer resembles a 4 square – but “something else”. That something else sure helped me.
As I was riding my bike to work this morning all I could think about is how many times I read and re-read the ON4UN Low Band DX-ing book – by the ARRL. Understanding propagation with ALL of the variables (antenna used, direction, time of years, point in the sunspot cycle – and many more) all combine to give you knowledge.
And this knowledge is what will help you make QSO’s very with far and rare DX even when conditions are plain crummy.
The point of all of this is that understanding radio propagation is a must have tool. There are so many parameters and layers of understanding – it truly is like thinking in 3D (more more). I like to think that understanding all of these parameters is like playing with a Rubricks Cube – and that one square that I had not considered before just came into clear view this morning when I started think about yet one more variable – the Auroral Oval.
73, Rich KY6R