Weak Signal Work

09Feb17

Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun - August 31

Yup, the sunspot cycle is at a low. That means that for some bands, the term “DX” will not have the same meaning as before. Basically, the bands from 15 through 6 meters are dead as far as skip and DX go.

When band conditions drop, weak signal work becomes more important than ever. You should watch for weather fronts to move across your area, especially on 12, 10 and 6 meters. Tropospheric bending, or “ducting,” can yield significant weak-signal contacts. This phenomenon can sometimes affect propagation well into VHF, sometimes as far as 222 MHz or above.

Work the Gray Line. Without going into a lot of detail, as the sun rises or sets there is a period of 45 minutes or so when propagation on 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters may benefit from changing ionospheric radiation. The Gray Line is also called the Terminator, or the area of change from light to darkness… or the reverse. 40, 30 and 20 meters may also get a good boost! Gray Line effects are not really reliable, but when they do exist it’s a lot of fun!

Specialized methods such as Moon bounce, satellites, Aurora, meteor scatter and others can also yield good short-term DX contacts, but satellite communications are not really weak signal. Auroras are special ionizing events that stem from solar storms and can deliver either strong or weak-signal communications. This is especially true on high HF and 6 meters. Meteor scatter uses the ionized trail of atmosphere behind the meteors to bounce a signal back to Earth. Robust digital modes like JT-65 are especially good for Aurora and meteor scatter well into VHF.

What’s the key to catching the weak DX? Receiver preamps and great antenna systems help.

DX Engineering RPA-1 Receive Preamplifiers DXE-RPA-1

DX Engineering RPA-1 Receive Preamplifiers DXE-RPA-1

HF receive preamps like DXE-RPA-1, and VHF preamps like the Mirage line of mast-mounted, or in-the-shack preamps provide the boost your receiver may need. VHF and HF Yagi arrays have better signal-catching ability than common dipoles or verticals.

So…make sure your receiving equipment is working at its best, watch the weather and solar activity reports and put up some good antennas for the bands you wish to use. These tips will net you some pretty good DX until our friendly sunspots return.

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