Wednesday, August 15, 2018

DXers Unlimited - midweek edition, August 14, 2018

Arnie Coro, CO2KK

Hi amigos all around the world, I am Arnie Coro your host here at the middle of the week edition of Dxers Unlimited on the air and on the web from beautiful La Habana Cuba.

The “non-conversational” digital communications mode FT8 is providing many city dwellers with a viable option to make contacts otherwise impossible with SSB or CW. It has also brought a lot of controversy that in my opinion has benefitted amateur radio during this extended period of extremely low solar activity and its associated very poor HF bands propagation conditions. Here is a very nice comment about the FT 8 digital mode

It is a fact that FT8 is extremely popular right now. Even when band conditions are good, there are times when few or no CW or PSK signals are present on a particular band, yet the band has lots of FT8 signals, with many stations easily workable with QRP and a simple antenna.

It is also a fact that FT8 is the easiest ham mode to use, and simply make contacts, barring none. Especially with QRP power. Under favorable conditions, you can work and log a station, exchanging call signs, signal reports, and Grid Locations, in under two minutes, by a couple of mouse clicks. The data is formatted and exchanged totally automatically. Another mouse click confirms the entry for logging.

But let me make it quite clear amigos, for all practical purposes, this mode is totally "non-conversational."

Yes, you can compose and send a station a 13-character message, but you can't ask that ham if he also operates on six meters or the type of antenna in use.

FT8 gives no chance for person to person dinamic exchange of information other than the data provided by the 13 characters messages!

Item # Two: Special interest to radio amateurs who are now using the sensational FT8 digital communications mode.

Si amigos, I receive many radio related questions coming to the ASK ARNIE section of Dxers Unlimited...and they have helped me to learn more about the radio hobby, making possible to share with my listeners some very interesting findings.

Amigo Randall, from Utah, USA and yours truly have exchanged ideas about regenerative receivers we have built, that make possible excellent reception of the HF bands spanning from 4 to 12 megahertz.

So when I received a question asking about what could be considered to be the most rugged, reliable, easy to homebrew, that can be made from electronic components not hard to find, and even using recycled parts, I immediately started to work on the project, that has kept me busy all along the weekend reviewing my notebooks and going to the workshop to pick up half-finished receivers projects.

The new CO2KK shortwave receiver already has a  name, an acronymn, coming from the words RUGGED RELIABLE EASY TO BUILD RADIO.... RRETOBUILD...Sunday evening, I was already drawing by hand the schematic diagram and the parts list for the front end....

Yes, it is true that the worst HF bands propagation conditions of the past ten years are happening right now as day after day, one after the other the Sun shows no sunspots, and the solar flux stays hovering barely above the lowest ever recorded value of sixty six units.

You must look back to the tail end of cycle 23 between 2008 and 2009 to see a similar long spell of a blank Sun and solar flux levels at the baseline readings.

Again, it is confirmed that according to well-known heliophysicists that keep a close watch on the Sun, some new solar cycle sunspots have been seen, something that indicated we are nearing the transition between the very weak cycle 24 and what may be another also very weak cycle 25.

For some reason or other August seems to have become the international weekend for lighthouses. Countries all over the world have become involved in one or another of lighthouse activity.

In Britain the Association of Lighthouse Keepers, ALK, conducts International Lighthouse Heritage Weekend on the third full weekend in August. Their objective is to encourage Lighthouse managers, keepers and owners to open their lighthouse or light-station and related visitors centers, to the public with a view to raising the profile of lighthouses, light vessels and other navigational aids, and preserving the world's treasured maritime heritage.

The major event which takes place in August is the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend, ILLW, which came into being in 1998 as the Scottish Northern Lights Award run by the Ayr Amateur Radio Group.

The ILLW takes place on the 3rd full weekend in August each year and attracts over 500 lighthouse entries located in over 40 countries including Cuban stations that will use the T4 prefix for the special event stations.

QSL on the air to the listeners that have recently sent e-mail messages to

Yes amigos, send your reports, comments and your radio hobby related questions to Catch those elusive, now rare, F2 layer propagation events during solar minimum years that occur during your local daytime hours.

Here is how to catch MORE of those band openings by using the scanning functions of digital radios to search for 10 meters amateur band beacons, operating from 28.2 to 28.3 megahertz. Plus, you can do like-wise by programming the 40 citizens bands channels and leave your radio connected to a quarter wave vertical ground plane omnidirectional antenna, ready to pick up any DX signals that may reach your location.

The bad news that continues to worry shortwave listener’s and amateur radio operators, is that there are no signs for improvement of shortwave propagation conditions ... and this, is WHY it is happening.

Solar flux is holding at very low 70 flux unit levels and zero sunspots in sight. Let me repeat the following:

SOLAR MINIMUM UPDATE: The sun has been without sunspots for more than 50 percent of the days of this year 2018. To find a similar stretch of blank suns, you have to go back to 2009, when the sun was experiencing the deepest solar minimum in a century. Solar minimum has returned, bringing with it extra cosmic rays entering into the Earth's upper atmosphere, long-lasting holes in the sun's atmosphere, and strangely pink auroras. And as expected the worst propagation conditions on the HF
bands above 10 megahertz in more than nine years.

Current propagation Conditions: 
Solar-terrestrial indices for 13 August. Solar flux 68 and estimated planetary A-index 5. The estimated planetary K-index at 1200 UTC on 14 August was 1. No space weather storms were observed for the past 24 hours. No space weather storms are predicted for the next 24 hours. 225 Issued Tuesday August 14, 2018 at 1345 UTC

Solar activity was very low.

The daily solar flux index numbers (DSFI) were 67.9 67.8 66.4

There had been eight consecutive days with a 2000 UTC daily solar flux index number (DSFI) less than 70.

The official daily sunspot number (DSSN) was 0.

There had been 45 of the past 48 days with an official daily sunspot number (DSSN) of 0.

In 2018 there had been 132 days with an official daily sunspot number (DSSN) of 0.

New sunspot may be showing up On Tuesday August 14, 2018 a new plage rose around the eastern limb of the sun located at approximately S08E55. There may be one tiny sunspot associated with the plage and it could be numbered later today if it survives.

 See you all at the weekend edition of Dxers Unlimited next Sunday and early Monday UTC days just after the top of the hour news...send your signal reports and comments about this and other Radio Havana Cuba's programs as well as your radio hobby related questions to or via air mail. Send your postcards and letters to Arnie Coro, Radio Havana Cuba. Havana, Cuba.
(Arnie Coro/R Havana Cuba)