Well, prior to 2018 I had been struggling to work new Maidenhead grid squares on 70 MHz due to a previous combination of deaf radios for that band and unsuitable antennas.
However, in 2018 in time for the Sporadic-E season I combined an Icom-7100 transceiver with a small 1.2m long quad band vertical colinear (50/70/144/432 MHz).
Despite this new antenna being vertically polarised and with poor performance reviews especially on 144 MHz, and only being mounted at 2m AGL, due to local antenna restrictions, I still managed to increase my 70 MHz grid squares total from a starting measly seven to 38.
My primary communication mode being FT8 for weak signal and automatic signal reception.
My 70 MHz best distance was when working EA7CI in IM77 square at 1,873 km via Sporadic-E propagation.
Countries worked in 2018 were EA, CT, GI, GW, G, 9H1, DL, 9A4, S57, OK, HA, SP & OK
Today, 24th July 2018 at solar cycle 24 minimum the 50 MHz band defied long established propagation theories and observations when the station of Gary Ashdown VK8AW near Darwin, Northern Australia in locator square PH57 worked several stations in Europe and was heard by many more between 0700-0800 UTC. The furthest station received being G3TXF in England, locator square IO71VE at a distance of 14,118 km and -09dB signal strength!
The weak signal FT8 data mode was being used.
This is absolutely remarkable as in all previously published theory and observations 50 MHz Sporadic-E signals usually never exceed 7,000 km by multi hop, and there should be no F2 or TEP propagation, unless at solar cycle maximum, which we most definitely are not.
However it appears these remarkable distances were, after all, likely achieved by a combination of TEP and Sporadic-E.
It seems the very weak signal mode FT8 is now allowing us to transmit and receive signals and achieve distances that only solar cycle maximum previously supported and we were able to detect. The FT8 use of standardised frequencies and automatic decode with internet reporting is greatly assisting detection. This is extremely exciting for pushing the VHF boundaries of this radio hobby and our understanding of propagation.
This has been an excellent year for Sporadic-E in 2018, much better than for some time. Openings started here in IO84 square in May on the 50 MHz band (50.313 FT8) and have also been on 70 MHz (70.154 FT8) too.
The new FT8 data mode used with WSJT-X software and JT-AlertX and DXKeeper logging has been fantastic for VHF DX chasing. Very easy and quick to automatically be alerted in the shack, house or garden to needed stations whilst ignoring anything else. Weak signals from single or double hop Sporadic-E are easy to work and my humble antennas of a loop for 50 MHz and a Colinear for 70 MHz, both only 2m AGL hidden in garden bushes due to a no visible antennas restriction have allowed me to work many new DXCC Countries and squares on both bands.
Single, Double-hop and even Triple-hop Sporadic-E to South America have been observed in the past 24 hours.
On the subject of DXKeeper logging it syncs perfectly with the other software mentioned above to automatically upload contacts to both E-QSL and LoTW, a really nice way to do everything without time consuming manual input.
I have just returned to my favourite Amateur Radio propagation mode of Meteor Scatter (MS) and found that the 50 MHz (6m) band is absolutely full of activity and thriving more than ever with operators.
The new MS mode on the scene in 2017 is MSK144 mode with 15s intervals and appears to have completely taken over from the previous commonly used mode of JT6M, which was very prevalent as recently as 2015/16.
Most activity on MSK144 mode occurs around 50.280 MHz and the software in use appears to be either the long running and well known WSJT or the newer MSHV by LZ2HV.
Other frequencies seen are 70.280 MHz again with MSK144
This mode would also appear to be very suitable for Aircraft Scatter (AS) propagation and will be interesting to see how it performs there.
73 de Philip G0ISW
I became a SWL in 1983 and a Radio Amateur in 1985, back in those halcyon days we were not permitted to talk at all about Politics or Religion in case it caused offence and the vast majority of conversations to be heard were usually technically related to antennas, radios, propagation etc.
How things have changed now………..I have just been listening to 3.6-3.8 MHz LSB this morning using my Wellbrook ALA1530+ (modified to 100MHz) Active Loop Antenna and the range of non-technical conversations included:
Toe nail clipping, motorcycles & stolen cars!
On the positive side there were a few technical conversations overheard about:
IP cameras, OFCOM & RF breakthrough
Not technical, but interesting was:
Stoats and wild rabbits & flooding