I made contact with 19 Japanese stations yesterday afternoon (June 14, 2013) on the 50-MHz (6 meter) band between 2314 and 2356 UTC. This was my first “JA opening” on 50-MHz in a LONG time; my last Japanese QSOs on 50-MHz were back in the ’90s when we lived in Tiffany, Colorado (grid square DM67), a bit south of our new home in Glade Park, Colorado (grid square DM59pa). During the years we lived in Vermont the furthest west I ever reached on 50-MHz was Guam, a bit short of Japan.
If I’m anywhere near my radio (and sometimes when I’m not – thank you, smartphone) I point a Web browser at the “ON4KST 50 MHz IARU Region 2″ chat page to read late breaking 50-MHz DX related news, spots, rumors and general chatter especially during during times of the year when 50 MHz propagation is known to be possible:
- Around the spring and autumn equinoxes for Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP)
- May through the first half of August for the northern hemisphere summer Sporadic-E (Es) season
- A few weeks either side of New Year’s Day for the northern hemisphere winter Es season sometimes with propagation links to the southern hemisphere
- And – if we had more sunspots than Cycle 24 has seen fit thus far to bequeath - the northern hemisphere autumn and winter for F2 propagation
(Of course 50-MHz can open at any time of day and year and much of what happens on “The Magic Band” is poorly understood. But the periods above are the ‘prime time for six.’)
It all began yesterday afternoon at 2200 UTC (which was 4 pm Colorado time) when Han JE1BMJ, a noted 50-MHz enthusiast and propagation theorist, was reported on 50,090.5 kHz by Jay K0GU on the ‘KST chat which grabbed my attention. Jay lives in Wellington, Colorado (grid square DN70mq) about 230 miles east of me and is a dedicated, experienced 50-MHz DXer. Jay hears a lot of stations before any one else in the Rocky Mountain region and his ‘KST posts are always worth noting. I turned my new 50-MHz antenna (thanks to K7JA for assistance in building and installing this last month and of course G0KSC for the design) towards Japan – 312 degrees azimuth – and started listening. At 2226 UTC I started hearing Han’s CW (Morse Code) signal slowly fade and out.
When I first attempted to make contact with Han but he was unable to hear my complete callsign and was responding to me as “AA7X” (leaving off the final T, I am AA7XT). I eventually stopped calling JE1BMJ – I didn’t want to ‘hog the DX’ as Han and other Japanese stations were being heard over much of the US. For a two-way contact to be considered legitimate in ham radio circles each party must copy correctly the other parties callsign and preferably some other information such as a signal report.
At 2314 I noticed Han’s signal had gotten louder so I called him again and made a solid contact straight away. Success! I was amazed my ‘barefoot’ (no amplifier, only 80 Watts output) Elecraft K3 transceiver and InnovAntennas 8 element LFA Yagi (an awesome antenna but it was on a tower parked at only 3 meters [10 feet ]above ground due to recent high winds) were making the 9,000 kilometer journey! At ten feet up towards Japan my antenna was looking into a hillside! I listened to Han work other stations for a few few minutes and savored the moment.
Here’s a short YouTube video I made of JE1BMJ’s signal yesterday:
I would have likely made many more contacts if had started calling CQ earlier! For a long time I was only hearing JE1BMJ so I didn’t bother calling CQ until around a full hour after opening started. I had an ‘instant pileup’ after first my CQ call; clearly I should have started CQing much earlier – Doh! I proceeded to work 18 more Japanese stations before the path closed:
Toshi ,JA0RUG, who I worked during this opening, sent me a MP3 recording of my signal as heard in Japan (click on link to listen to the audio):
Here are the grids I worked during yesterday’s opening:
The first hop was certainly Es as I was hearing loud stations in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia at reasonable Es single distance, but how about the rest of the way? Han, JE1BMJ, the first station I worked in this opening, has developed a theory on these openings – which cluster around the summer solstice – and he has dubbed the mechanism “Short-path Summer Solstice Propagation” aka SSSP. Articles on SSSP by JE1BMJ, W3ZZ, WB2AMU and KH6/K6MIO have been published in Dubus, CQ VHF, Six News and elsewhere. Here are a few links:
So far, SSSP, if it in fact exists (such mysteries make 50-MHz DXing a fascinating avocation!) seems to be unique to the 50-MHz band. I look forward to learning more about SSSP as more and more DXers become aware of the mode and watch for it. Ham Radio is the exception to the ‘watched pot never boils’ rule of thumb. In DXing, an unwatched band never opens! One interesting note is that propagation like SSSP frequently repeats itself the next day so you can be sure I will be at my radio this afternoon!
73 and CU on the Magic Band!
PS: Some interesting recordings of 50-MHz DX signals heard in Japan by JE1BMJ can be found here (including yours truly):