Category Archives: Propagation

GRAVES: Reflections out of the blue

A GRAVES reflection from a meteor trail, August 21st, 2017 at 10:51 UTC. Received with FDM-S2 from Elad, a discone antenna and software V3 from Simon Brown

Undoubtly, a Graves is a fine French wine from the Bordeaux region in western France. So it is so surprise that also GRAVES is an extraordinary Radar station. It was built to detect and follow satellites and their debris. They sequentially cover from 90° to 270° azimut in five big sectors A to D, and change from sector to sector each 19,2 seconds. Each of this sector is further divided into 6 segments of 7,5° width, covered for 3,2 seconds each.

They are transmitting on 143,050 MHz. If you are in Europe and tune into 143.049,0 kHz USB, you probably will hear/see some reflections of meteors, airplanes and even spacecraft. The distance between the transmitter and my location is about 630 km, and for their southly directed transmissions, there most of the time is no direct reception.

So, if you tune into 143.049,0 kHz, you will see just a blue spectrogram: noise. If you wait for a while, some signals will appear out of this blue; see screenshot on the top. With Simon Brown’s free software Version 3 you may also take a level diagram in smallest time steps of just 50 milliseconds:

A level diagram of the meteor trail reflection from the spectrogram at the top, visualized qith QtiPlot.

This level diagram shows the big advantage of SDRs, working on the signals on HF level, rather than of audio level as with legacy radios. The latter additionally introduce e.g. noise and phase errors. Of course, you may also listen to this signal:

From this audio, in turn, you may do an audio spectrogram, possibly revealing further details of e.g. of the trilling sound like that from a ricocheting bullet: The Searchers (the 1956’er Western film by John Ford, not the British boy group from 1960 …) on VHF.

Audio spectrogram of the sound, revealing “packets” of sound which result in the trilling audio. At start, these packet show a width of about 42 milliseconds to be reduced to 37 milliseconds.

P.S. If you want to donate: my favourite Graves is from Domaine de Chevalier, blanc …

2,5+ million of Field Strength Data from ITU

Tehran-Norddeich_1983-1989_15K1MHz_3D1

Seven years of hourly field strength data of a transmitter in Tehran/Iran, received at Norddeich/Northern Germany. You clearly see the influence of time, day, season and solar activity.

 

The International Telecommunications Union recently published many information for free, which had been locked for years behind an often impressive cash house or had been available just for a few blessed.

Among these information is a bonanza of 2,5+ million of normalized field strength data from the years 1969 to 1993. This time covers two solar cycles and by far doesn’t provide insights of only historical interest: You e.g. may visualize some circuits to see the influence of day, time and solar activity at a glance. And you may use this data to analyze some dependence between field strength and solar/geomagnetic activity.

As these data so far hasn’t attracted any interest of ham radio magazines, we are just at the beginning to make use of it. Join in!

The diagram at the top has been made with QtiPlot software. The same software has been used to visualize solar and geomagnetic WDC data, obtained from GFZ Potsdam – see diagram at the bottom.

Kp_vs-Flux_2

Solar flux (F10,7) vs. geomagnetic activity (Kp index), 1969-1993.

 

SDR Console V3: Signal History and six RX Panes!

KPL

NEW: The Receivers’ Pane on top covers spectrum and spectrogram of up to six demodulators – look at different modes and bandwidths. Also new: “Signal History” at the bottom.

Simon Brown, G4ELI, has further developed his software SDR Console which has become THE platform for a real bunch of very different SDRs. The new public preview has two more exciting features:

  • “Signal History” takes the signal strength of the given bandwidth each 50 milliseconds, which can be saved in a CSV file. It is also shown in three different speeds on a display.
  • “Receivers’ Pane” shows up to six combos of spectrum/spectrogram of the complete up to 24 parallel demodulators (they additionally can be shown in the Matrix, as in former versions).

See screenshot on at the top.

“Signal History” offers many applications, to name just three:

  • analyze fading and its structure with an unsurpassed time resolution of 50 ms
  • document fade-in and fade out
  • measure signal-to-noise ratio of signals

As an First Aid, I have written a PDF of 19 pages with 36 instructive Figures. There you find a step-by-step introduction plus numerous example on how to use this valuable tool in practice. Please download it here. (Another tab opens, where you have to double-click “SDR_COM_Marker” to start download.)

Surely, I will come back to these most welcomed features in more detail. For now only some screenshot examples regarding “Signal History”, which have been realized by analyzing the CSV files with QtiPlot:

With some statistics applied on the CSV file of Signal History, you’ll get a deep inisght into fading structures. Top: original data (black), averaged (yellow), median (read line). Bottom: box diagram, histogram, 3D-band. See following screenshots for some examples.

 

… and this is just the beginning! [Receiver: Elad FDM-S2 & AirSpy with SpyVerter]

Play it again, HAARP

Alaskan station HAARP is re-activated for some scientific purposes in late February, 2017. I received them on 2.800 kHz as well as on 3.300 kHz with carriers showing their scheduled pattern. Alas, reception was too weak to make out any modulation. See screenshots below, containing all sufficient data like time, frequency, resolution etc. Reception has been done in Northern Germany with FDM-S2 by ELAD at a quadloop antenna of 20 m circumference.

Decoding the whole DGPS band

This screenshot shows the automatically visualized result of a 15 hours’ session receiving the DGPS band, March 11th/12th, 2017. You clearly see the propagation effect during night (marked yellow).

For years, Chris Smolinski of Black Cat Systems offers a fine selection of Mac software, among them many pieces for hams and shortwave listeners.

He now presented an unique software dubbed Amalgamated DGPS which decodes, analyzes and visualizes all DGPS stations on long wave at once. This is done from an I/Q wav file of e.g. Perseus SDR. DGPS stand for “Differential Global Positioning System” and is a system of long wave transmitters in the range of 283,5 to 324,5 kHz transmitting FSK data in 100 and 200 Baud to correct for GPS signals. Look here for a short introduction to this topic.

[Einen deutschsprachigen Test der aktualisierten Software habe ich in der April- Ausgabe 2017 der Fachzeitschrift FUNKAMATEUR veröffentlicht.]

These transmitters are of regional coverage, like non-directional beacons, or NDB, in the same band. This makes them interesting for DXing and propagation studies as well.

All you have to do is to let the software analyze your I/Q files of a receiving sessions. Yes, it is automatically “chaining” your files. You then get a detailed list of decoded stations with some additional data. You also can visualize these data, as I did in the screenshot at the top. This is based on a 15 hours’ session resulting in 56 wav files of 675 MB each.

The software runs on both, Mac/iOS and Windows. On both systems it works fine, covering .0 and .5 kHz channels as well as both baud rates.

Here you see the complete list of stations and the number of their receptions. “Amalgamated DGPS” has decoded 516.918 logs in roughly 15 hours!

 

PropLab 3.1: How Propagation really works

 

Fergana_DK8OK_3DRayTracing

The software’s unique feature is 3D raytracing, showing an anatomy of propagation (see text).

HF propagation software seems to be full of mysteries. But its all about modeling physics. There are several models around, the most prominent surely is VOACAP, followed by ASAPS. VOACAP comes in very many different tastes like e.g. PropMan 2000 or ACE. It often has been coined to be the “Gold Standard” among hams and professionals as well. VOACAP gives reliable results on a statistical base for a month, whereas ASAPS returns propagation based on the current conditions of a day. It also gives propagation for an aircraft en route during its flight and takes at least a bit care of multi-path propagation which may degrade digital modes. Both work offline as online, and they are fast.

[Einen ausführlichen deutschsprachigen Test mit vielen Screenshots und Beispielen habe ich in der Januar- Ausgabe 2017 der Fachzeitschrift FUNKAMATEUR veröffentlicht.]

PropLab is giving you a much smarter view on what is really happening on a specific day and time at a specific path or area. It relies on the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI 2007) and uses the ray tracing technique. In short, PropLab is automatically fetching all relevant space weather data (not just sunspots) from scientific sources of the internet to model the ionosphere with its different “layers”.

You then give in your path, antenna etc. in a well-supported way. After having started “ray tracing”, PropLab lets refract rays at exactly this ionosphere with its high granularity and some real-world effect like tilts of layers which will result in e.g. propagation off the great circle. It will also beautifully show effects like focusing and gray line propagation, including Pedersen’s long ranging ray with time resolution up to one second – rather than one hour as that of VOACAP.

Read more

ASAPS: HF Prediction online & free!

Flight AF 128 from Paris to Beijing: What is they best time/frequency combination to communicate with Stockholm AOCC on HF?

Flight AF 128 from Paris to Beijing: What is the best time/frequency combination to communicate with Stockholm AOCC on HF en route?

 

HF prediction seems to be a somewhat neglected field among short wave listeners, as well as hams. At the same time, some knowledge of how propagation works on specific paths or into defined areas will greatly enhance your hunting success. If you have considered the somewhat flat learning curve of some software as an obstacle, there now is no excuse. With ASAPS’ recently even more improved online services, you are on the sunny side of HF right now.

I had written a short paper explaining how this free service can be used especially for Utility DXing. If you also ever wanted to know the relation of a waste paper basket and multi path propagation, please download this PDF (7 pages, 22 illustrations) here.

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