DSES earned a first place award in the ham radio 2017 Colorado QSO Party

K0PRT, the club ham radio station of the Deep Space Exploration Society, earned this First Place certificate in the 2017 Colorado QSO Party, for our category.  The QSO party ran last September.

We operated Morse Code (CW) and Phone (SSB).  We entered as a portable station,  because we made contacts while traveling to the telescope site, and then while at the telescope site itself.  We made 37 contacts around the U.S. and Canada.  Thanks to all of the team for supporting this event.  Our operators were Gary Agranat WA2JQZ and Bill Miller KC0FHN.

Plishner site work trip October 21, 2017

During the work trip on October 21, 2017, a single-band 1420 MHz circular polarized feed was installed. This feed was built by Steve Plock KL7IZW.

The antenna was set with an azimuth of 149.6° , and with an elevation 39.2° above the horizon.  This allows the antenna to drift scan the sky along an arc, as the Earth rotates, at Declination -7.5° (celestial latitude).

This scan was designed to pass across the triple star system 40 Eridani, at about 0200 local time. This was a joint SETI project with Skip Crilly to make simultaneous measurements together with the Green Bank Observatory 40 foot radio telescope in West Virginia. The two sites are at about the same latitude, at a distance of about 1300 miles.  Joint observations were scheduled for the early mornings of October 26, and October 29.

The specific target of interest was 40 Eridani A, which is at a distance of 16.4 light years.  Eridani A has a habitable zone around it for an orbit calculated to take 223.   The frequency spectrum of 1405 to 1445 MHz is continually sampled, in order to look for “triplets” signals.  Simultaneous observing from two distant sites would rule out that any signals detected at both sites cannot be from local terrestrial sources.

The technique of “Drift Scan” is just keeping the antenna pointed in one  fixed direction, while the sky passes overhead as the Earth turns. Rather than track a particular object, the sky is passively scanned, as the sky “drifts” across.

Also continuing:

  • Total power measurement @ 1428 MHz, beam size 2°
  • Neutral hydrogen spectral line measurement
Skip Crilly setting computers to record data for his SETI triplet study of 40 Eridani, at the DSES radio telescope site in Haswell. The project will simultaneously make the same measurements with the 40-foot radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Greenbank, WV.
Skip’s antenna analyzer, in use.
The 60 foot antenna set to drift scan for 40 Eridani, as the sun set with a crescent moon.

Also on this trip, Gary Agranat WA2JQZ operated the ham station from the bunker, to participate in the annual Boy Scouts of America Jamboree On The Air (JOTA). Ops were on 20 meters, using the bunker’s 160 meter dipole. Two JOTA stations were contacted in California, W1AW/6 and N6B.  Other JOTA stations around the US and also Mexico were heard, but conversations among them were already well in progress, and so we didn’t interfere with those. Attempts were made to listen for the JOTA station in Colorado Springs, operated by Dave Molter AD0QD, but it was not heard.  In between JOTA ops, the club also participated in the New York State QSO Party, on CW and SSB, with 19 contacts.  And 9 contacts were made with JT65.  The longest distance JT65 contact was to Spain EC2ATM, and with SSB to 9A3XV in Croatia.

Skip Crilly used his antenna analyzer to check both the 160 and 80 meter dipoles located at the bunker.  He verified that most of the lower part of the 20 meter band was usable, and the 17 meter band was as well, but many of the other ham bands were not with the current length of the antenna.  Ed Corn KC0TBE later also used his antenna analyzer to check the antennas and feeds.  And he checked the amplifier.

Ed Corn also placed the two sump pumps on separate power inverter feeds.  That ensured that each pump can start independently if both are needed simultaneously.

Ed Corn KC0TBE using his antenna analyzer.
The bunker ham station set up.

Paul Berge, who was active several years ago, drove to the site from the Denver area. He discussed past and current projects with the team. Paul Berge, Steve Plock, and Skip Crilly stayed at Haswell overnight, to continue work the next day. Overnight the sky was clear, with the Milky Way clearly visible. The Orionid Meteor Shower was in progress, and several other members of the team stayed past sunset to watch the night sky as well.

Also working at the site on this trip were Rich Russel ACoUB and Ed Schade KC0HCR.

2016 ARRL CW Sweepstakes – We Won 1st Place for Colorado !

Last November (2016) we tried participating in our first contest.  This was the annual ARRL Sweepstakes for CW (Morse Code).

The goal of this contest is to contact hams across the U.S. and Canada. As such, it is usually a sociably friendly event.  Your points do get multiplied for each ARRL geographical Section you contact.  Some Sections are whole states or provinces, like Colorado is its own Section.  Some populous states though have a few Sections within them, for example California.  If you contact all the Sections in one contest, that is called a “Clean Sweep”, hence the name of the contest.  That is a lot of work. For many hams, though, this is just for fun, and a chance to make contacts with other folks in other places.  I was looking forward to having some fun making contacts from our site, and bringing our club call sign K0PRT on to the air.

To our surprise we just received a certificate from the ARRL that we won First Place in our category for Colorado! Our category was Muli-Operator (for two or more hams operating) Low Power (less than 150 watts).

We actually only made 8 contacts for the contest: 6 on 20 meters and 2 on 15 meters, to 7 states.  Then at that point we discovered our CW signal had a chirp.  We were operating on battery power from the site.  And when we drew current as we  pushed down the telegraph key, the voltage dropped too much.  Later we added a regulated power supply to our ham station to solve that problem. But on that day we decided we should just stop, as our signal sounded awful.

And yet, what we did was enough in our category to still earn First Place!

We operated for the contest from our Communications Trailer. The photos are from that day.

Sometimes there are not many stations operating in a contest as multi-operator low power.  I investigated into the contest records, and that was the case this time.  That said, I am still proud of what we did. Bringing together a team to operate and have fun is not necessarily easy.  And we did this at our remote site.  Our category has its challenges.  Congratulations to our Club!  We earned a First Place certificate.  We will have more opportunities.

                                                                                                 – Gary WA2JQZ

2017-09-02 DSES Plishner Site Work Trip Report

Here is a summary from our work trip to the Plishner Radio Telescope site on Saturday September 2, 2017.  It includes many photos of what we did.  Highlights include:

  • Work started on rebuilding the bunker ramp retaining wall
  • Work on the control boxes which control the azimuth and elevation pointing of the 60 foot antenna
  • Maintenance and calibration of the Radio Jove and total power measurement instruments
  • Positioning the 60 foot antenna for detecting radio source Cygnus A during drift scan
  • Colorado ham radio QSO Party participation

The summary report was written by DSES Secretary Bill Miller.  The ham radio report was written by Gary Agranat.  Click the link to see the report in PDF.

2017-09-02 DSES Plishner Site Work Trip Report rev3

ARRL DX CW contest – 2017 February 18

 Posted February 26, 2017, updated March 2.

Last weekend, while we were working on the radio telescope (reinstalling the antenna feed at the focus), we also spent a few hours participating in the ARRL DX CW contest.  This is an annual ham radio contest sponsored by the ARRL, done in two parts. In February (this month) is the contest for using Morse Code (CW). In March is the contest for using voice.  The goal is for hams in the continental U.S. and Canada to contact hams everywhere else, and vice versa.  We used our ham radio station at the site, which includes a 100 watt transceiver, an antenna tuner, and a folded dipole suspended above the communications trailer.  For sending code we used just a straight traditional key.

We succeeded in making 27 contacts with 18 overseas DX locations. These are the places we contacted:

Antigua & Barbuda
Cape Verde
Cayman Island
Costa Rica
Turks & Caicos Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands

A31MM in Tonga was a nice surprise, and was our longest-distance contact, at 6600 miles.  Tonga is in the western Pacific, north of New Zealand. That and D4C in Cape Verde (about 4500 miles distance) took some patience and skill, but they were worth the effort as those are not common DX to work.

We mostly used the 15-meter band, which had good propagation openings to the Caribbean and across the equator. If you look on a globe or world map, Tonga and Cape Verde are across the equator from Colorado. That suggests we benefitted from Trans Equatorial Propagation (TEP).  We managed to hear one station in Europe, in Poland, but couldn’t make the contact.  20 meters was heavily crowded with domestic stations (which we couldn’t contact in this contest), and so we didn’t use that band much.  The 10-meter band was open enough that we made our Chile contact there.  On Log Book of the World, which we need for the DXCC award, we received so far 12 confirmations:

Argentina LU4EG
Aruba P40R
Bonaire PJ4X
Brazil PP5NY
Cape Verde D4C
Costa Rica TI5W
Hawaii KH6LC, WH7W
Tonga A31MM
Turks & Caicos Islands VP5K
Uruguay CW5W
U.S. Virgin Islands KP2M
Venezuela YV5OIE

I expect most 0f the rest of our contacts will confirm on Log Book of the World in the near future, as this sort of contest is commonly used to achieve credits toward DXCC.

We also started to receive confirmations on eQSL as well. See the accompanying card images bel0w.

These contests are generally fun and good learning experiences. We can participate in more in the future.  I will be happy to help anyone in the group take part while we are at the site.  Contests can help develop good ham skills – including developing good operator practices and learning first-hand how propagation can change during the day across the bands. You can be at any experience level, including beginner.  With some experience, you may find yourself developing some strategies.  Contests also can be fun geography lessons.  You can contact hams in so many different places, including places you didn’t know about.

73, Gary WA2JQZ

YV5OIE Venezuela