Tuesday, July 17, 2012

IARU-ora 2012

Old Sol burped late last week.  At 0400 local time on Saturday the 14th, I strapped myself in for a bumpy ride in the IARU HF contest while I waited for the coronal mass ejection to hit, which was estimated to strike in the late morning.   

Best rate was about 1.5-2 hours into the contest with 130-150 Q's per hour.  The rest was mostly S&P once the CME hit.  Painful, indeed, but very interesting.  Even though Kp > 5 and aurora > 7, it was still possible to work stations.  

I have this theory:  When the aurora is active, we northerners all know we can usually only work those inside the aurora oval.  When the aurora level is so high, the oval pushes outward to lower latitudes.  (Hence, our friends in the south saw some nice lights last night.)  The larger the oval, the more stations enveloped.  The "box", so to speak, has more folks inside to work, at least on the higher bands.

The real-time geomagnetic field activity, which is reflected in the Kp, was fluctuating pretty wildly.  Higher = more absorption between here and there.  While it fluctuated, the door would open and then shut every few minutes. You maximize your chances of finding a station in rapid S&P.  It will pop up and then be gone in a few minutes. You can keep a 45-60 Q/hour going even under the worst conditions by keeping one hand on the dial and the other on the keyboard.  Those stuck in RUN will suffer mightily.

Our friends in the Lower 48 apparently enjoyed some fine Northern Lights.  Of course, it is still too light in the sky to see stars or aurora in Fairbanks.  In another few weeks, that will be different.