Solar Cycle 24 Bottom 1.5 years Earlier Than Predicted?

I’ve believed for some time that the bottom of Cycle 24 would start in 2018 – probably not long after 3Y0Z, and that they would get the “last gasp” of propagation before we get back into the days where even 20M doesn’t open much. This article also says something similar:

I have noticed that the lower bands have been even better than just past Autumn – now that the solar disruptions have all but gone quiet – especially 160M. And 40M has done exactly what it did during the bottom of the last cycle – and offer great rare and far off DX like no other band. You need 2 elements on 40M – and I just happen to have an extra DX Engineering DV-40-P phased array system – new in the Box for sale at a great price!

I have read in a few places that the bottom of Cycle 24 will be prolonged, but the predictions for Cycle 24 were so far off – they ended up being a joke. I have made my plans just around that trend-line that you see above, and knowing that we are about were we were in 2008. It is very clear that the north – south paths were better than the east west paths and that the polar paths – like with Z60A now was not good.

The number of days straight with no sunspots this year is supposed to be double what it was last year, so its really starting to remind me of what is to come. The best thing this time around? I’m addicted to 160M, and that EA8 the other day plus the JT5DX were like being on 40M – or even 20M actually. It will be interesting how FT8 makes up some of the propagational difference – that is something to watch.

Viva Le Low Bands!

160M DXCC #97: T88PB – Palau

It was rough, but its #97 and in the log. Three more Top Band QSO’s and Two more for Honor Roll #1. These are fun times in DXing for me – especially 160M all of a sudden waking up so nicely. This past Fall was really disappointing, I thought I’d have to wait all year to get to 100, but (fingers crossed), I very well could make it by my birthday in March.

Its a “two-fer” – a 9BDXCC plate for my 5BDXCC plaque.

160M DXCC and 9BDXCC: Four More to Go!

I’m only 4 away from DXCC on Top Band and 9BDXCC. These are both very big deals – especially for the West Coast, and using antennas that I designed and built on a small suburban lot down in a bowl below an old volcano about 20 miles east of San Francisco. Last night I listened to the pileups for Z60A – using an East Coast Remote, and wow – my WA2QHN days in Newton, NJ came back to me.  More on remotes soon – but I really do believe that these two feats are equal to making Honor Roll in 11 years – or one solar cycle.

My new goal is to make these 2 goals before my birthday in March. It will require a couple more “surprises” like what has happened lately, but its actually very doable. Wow – if I work 3Y0Z and get to DXCC / 9BDXCC by my birthday in March that will be the best birthday gift I could ask for. A “trifecta”!

Worst case scenario now is that KH1 – Baker Island is when it happens.

“Make it so!”

Liftmaster 8500 Direct Drive

Our chain drive garage door opener was on the fritz, so my brother in law Jim told us to consider the Liftmaster 8500. Its really fantastic, quiet, no chain, slows down nicely at each end of travel, and its very quiet. It also is compatible with Mobile Apps, so now my ADT Alarm system and Garage door opener can be controlled from my phone.

I have to take down the old opener, tack the wires down and add in an AC outlet in a very convenient junction box that supports an outlet. The project took just a little over 2 hours – it was easier than a chain drive unit and I think so much better.

160M DXCC: #96 – JT5DX

The tower at WLW

OK, now I have only 4 left to go. This CQ 160M contest has netted 2 new ones, and the band is really superb these days. It absolutely has improved after a really lack luster and noisy Autumn. I can tell that the “switch” has flipped and that we are truly on the way to the bottom of the cycle.

You know, I just don’t care about #1 Honor Roll nearly as much as Top Band DX. I’ll trudge along with HR, but 160M is what really gives me joy DX wise. Once I get to 100, I can just work on my count – and I suspect that’s going to be the big “serious” DXing I will do – and none of it will have an award attached as a goal. It will be fun for fun’s sake and I am sure very “freeing”. The real award will be knowing I have a really good TX and RX antenna and that I can compete with the big boys from my postage sized lot.

You notice I like to post old radio towers – usually from AM broadcast stations. I do this to remind myself what a real Top Band TX antenna would look like – and then, when I work DX 11K miles away on Top Band(FT5ZM and VK0EK), it a very big deal.

With WLW, I was a BCB DXer with my Heathkit SW-717 SW Receiver that I built when I was 11 years old. So its Olde Tyme Radio – a real nostalgic trip!

Bike Commuting and the Grey Line

I sold my car last June because I have been riding my bike to and from work religiously for about 2 years.

The interesting thing is the correlation of grey line propagation and bike commuting. While I have great lights and flashers, I prefer to ride when there is still daylight. This is perfect for DXing too as I get to catch the grey line night and morning.

Part of my recent discovery of how the Cross Quarter Days affect propagation was listening for 3G9A and now Z60A and especially checking 20 and 17M. Then on the weekend, I found out exactly when and how the grey line changes during the time period Jan 15 or so to Feb 15 or so.

After 3Y0Z we will start with equinox conditions, and I need to pay close attention to ZS6CCY who is my test beacon on 40M.

Bike wise, the days get longer and I am not as “constrained” about when I can ride to and from work with daylight.

160M DXCC #95 – EA8/RW4WR

Hard to believe his signal is a true S8 and like 40M, not 160M. I beat a big pileup first call – so I’m very proud of the work I put into my TX and RX antennas.

Five more to go!