New Directions Radio: Sunspot Cycle for Long-Distance Radio Communication

New Directions Radio shares news about a new sunspot cycle for long-distance radio communication, the trend is on the upswing for new solar happenings this coming fall.

| March/April 1978

The New Directions Radio column shares the latest on radio activities, including a new sunspot cycle for long-distance radio communication.

Copthorne Macdonald is an amateur radio enthusiast, inventor of slow scan television, and founder of New Directions Radio. New Directions Radio article MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 50, March/April 1978.

A New Sunspot Cycle for Long-Distance Radio Communication

Good news for all you New Directions hams (and would-be hams) out there: Long-distance radio communication conditions are good and getting better. The overall trend — despite the usual wide variations in conditions from day to day — is definitely up.

As you may or may not know, the very highest part of the earth's atmosphere — the ionosphere-acts like a mirror to radio waves of certain frequencies . . . it actually reflects the waves back to earth. Normally, transmission distances of up to about 2,300 miles can be covered by a single reflection. When conditions are just right, however, that radio signal can keep on bouncing between the ionosphere and the earth until it goes halfway around the world.

Scientists don't yet have all the facts, but it looks as though very short wavelength ultraviolet light may be what turns the upper atmosphere into a reflecting shell of charged particles. In any event, it is clear that conditions on the sun determine whether or not the ionosphere will behave like a good mirror. Good radio conditions seem to come and go every 11 years, at the same time that those gigantic solar happenings known as sunspots come and go.

When the first New Directions Roundtables were held in the fall of 1973, sunspots and radio conditions were on the wane. The 21 and 28MHz bands didn't work well anymore, and the hams who used to hang out there in better times started to squeeze into the 3.5, 7, and 14 MHz bands. We managed to survive the crowded band conditions along with everyone else, and NDR made it through the sunspot minimum.

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