Thursday, 25 June 2009

Noctilucent Clouds

There has been some discussion about NLCs being seen in the night sky recently. Also known as 'noctilucent clouds'. These are the highest clouds in the sky and are typically seen in our night sky in latitudes of 50 - 65 degrees. Noctilucent means 'night shining'. 

Noctilucent Clouds - Zoomed To Horizon

NLCs are colourless or bluish-white clouds and can be skein-like, rich with undulations and corrugations, knots and streaks, clawing upwards into the night sky, or at other times they can lie close to the horizon as a featureless band. 

NLCs are seasonal and can be seen between mid May and mid August in the northern hemisphere, mid-November to mid-february in the Southern Hemisphere). They are never visible in daylight. Wait until an hour after sunset when twilight has deepened. The sun should be 6 - 16 degrees below the horizon, enough to darken the sky but not so low that the NLCs are not still in sunlight. Firstly, search low in the sky towards the direction of the sun beneath the horizon, northwest before midnight, northeast afterwards. 

Noctilucent Clouds - Distance

Binoculars can help in distinguishing them from lower cirrus clouds. They appear sharper under magnification. 

NLCs are can sometimes visible further south, having been sighted in Europe as far south as Austria, Hungary, Italy and southern Germany. In the USA they have been seen in Utah and Colorado. 

Luckily for me, I was driving home across the Peak District on the morning of June 24th around local 1am. This is the darkest time of the night though the night sky never gets totally dark on the distant northern horizon at this time of year. 

The photos on this page show views across Chesterfield, showing the NLC clouds on the northern horizon. These were taken on Beeley Moor, above the villages of Upper Loads and Holymoorside. This part of the moor is approximately 1100 feet above sea level. 

The camera used was a small black one! ;0) 

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Sizewell DX Trip No.22

This was not supposed to be a 'radio trip' this time, but a short camping break with my wife (a mention of the word "radio" would result in my castration). She had not been to Sizewell before so I was looking forward to showing her what a beautiful place it was (apart from the nuclear power station of course). This also gave me the opportunity to explore the area more fully myself as I usually just do radio things on the campsite and never venture anywhere else. 

The nearby village of Thorpeness

Kim, our Welsh border collie, came with us too. We walked miles each day, exploring the Suffolk Coast Path, nearby villages and areas of natural heath land. My wife was so impressed with the area that she did not want to go home! In fact we extended our visit for an extra day and were even considering staying on through to the following weekend, but the beautiful weather was not going to hold out, so we have planned to visit again later in the summer. 

Kim, wearing Sizewell nuclear power station

I managed to do a little bit of radio listening even so and took along a few small items. Namely, the Sony XDR-F1HD, an Icom IC7000, the 'Faulkner FM loop antenna' and an HB9CV for 2m operation. FM 'broadcast' radio sessions were restricted to early mornings and late evenings as I did not want this to take over. I also managed some early evening sessions on 2m in an attempt to activate the 'WAB' square TM46, where we were staying, but I failed miserably. I did not speak to a single UK radio ham on 2m but managed to work several continental stations with the greatest of ease (5&9+10 signals). 

The famous 'Faulkner FM Loop Antenna'

It was nice to add several new additions to the cumulative Suffolk FM log though. The regular continental signals were still coming in with huge signals. You will note that I have included some RDS data with my loggings. These do not often appear because of co-channel continental activity. 

Our visit coincided with a nice spell of tropospheric activity, which was completely unexpected. This lasted from late evening on June 1st and continued throughout the 2nd and up to the midday period on June 3rd. The tropospheric conditions began with good signals from Germany from late afternoon on June 1st. By the afternoon of June 2nd the conditions had moved closer to home and Belgium was powering through. Local stations were heard noise- free, particularly above 105MHz. Signals from the continent were mostly at 'three lights' on the XDR F1HD - 36dB+! 

The Log:  New additions are indicated by an asterisk 
  87.6 02-06-09 BEL Nostalgie, Oostende (formerly R Mango)
  87.7 02-06-09 D WDR 5, Bad Oeynhausen (100W) *
  87.8 02-06-09 D WRD 2, Schwerte _WDR_2__
  88.0 02-06-09 D WDR 5, Bonn WDR_____
  88.1 02-06-09 BEL Nostalgie, Brugge (formerly R Mango)
  88.3 03-06-09 BEL R MNM, Brussel (formerly VRT Donna)
  88.9 02-06-09 D NDR Info, Lingen (200W)
  89.0 02-06-09 HOL R West, Den Haag (100W)
  89.0 03-06-09 BEL R MNM, Schoten (formerly VRT Donna)
  89.3 02-06-09 HOL R West, Rotterdam
  89.4 02-06-09 D NE-WS 89.4, Dusseldorf
  91.1 02-06-09 HOL Slam FM, Markelo or Hilversum
  91.1 03-06-09 F France Inter, Villers-Cotterets (02)
  91.5 02-06-09 BEL Unidentified Brussels station with pops (Dutch language)
  91.5 02-06-09 HOL BNR, 3 transmitters
  92.1 02-06-09 D NDR 2, Torfhaus
  92.2 03-06-09 BEL Joe FM, Dendermonde (formerly 4FM)
  92.4 02-06-09 D SWR 1, Linz SWR1_RP_
  93.2 02-06-09 D SWR 2, Haardtkopf
  94.6 02-06-09 D MDR 1, Brocken MDR_S-AN
  94.8 02-06-09 D SWR 3, Linz __SWR3__
  94.9 02-06-09 D R Herford, Herford (500W) *
  95.0 02-06-09 D NDR Info, Bremen-Walle (1kW)
  96.7 02-06-09 BEL Q Music, Mechelen *
  98.5 02-06-09 D NDR 2, Schwerin
100.2 02-06-09 D R SH, Bungsberg
100.6 02-06-09 D R FFN, Rosengarten
101.0 02-06-09 BEL Nostalgie, Oostvleteren *
102.0 02-06-09 BEL Nostalgie, Schoten
102.2 02-06-09 D DLF, presume Hohbeck but Itzehoe also listed
102.5 02-06-09 D HR 4, Gr. Feldberg
102.9 02-06-09 D RPR 1, Bad Marienberg
103.5 02-06-09 D RPR 1, Ahrweiler
104.0 02-06-09 D Big FM, Koblenz
104.1 02-06-09 BEL Joe FM (formerly 4FM), Egem
104.7 02-06-09 HOL 100%NL, Amsterdam (40W) *
104.8 02-06-09 BEL R Extra Gold, Koksijde (316W) *
104.9 02-06-09 BEL R Extra Gold, Oostkamp (100W)
105.0 02-06-09 BEL R 'T Visschertje, Oostende (23W)
105.1 02-06-09 BEL R Paradijs, Knokke-Heist (100W)
105.2 02-06-09 D R Berg, Lindlar
105.3 02-06-09 BEL Be One, Brugge (100W)
105.5 02-06-09 BEL Crazy FM, Staden (100W)
105.8 02-06-09 D R Erft, Koln
105.9 02-06-09 D R FFH, Gr. Feldberg _F_F_H__
106.0 02-06-09 BEL Club FM, Brugge (100w) (formerly Cool FM)
106.2 02-06-09 BEL Club FM, Knokke-Heist (100W)
106.3 02-06-09 D SWR 4, Bad Marienberg SWR_4_K (partial RDS)
106.3 02-06-09 BEL Mint FM, Tubize *
106.6 02-06-09 D Antenne Brandenburg, Pritzwalk
106.8 02-06-09 D R FFH, Driedorf
106.8 02-06-09 BEL R Extra Gold, Torhout (100W) __T_--__ (partial RDS)
106.9 02-06-09 D R Euskirchen, Schleiden
107.1 02-06-09 BEL Topradio, probably Oostende (100W)
107.2 02-06-09 BEL R Bingo, Roeselare (100W)
107.3 02-06-09 BEL VBRO, Diksmuide (100W)
107.4 02-06-09 D R Wuppertal, Wuppertal R_WUPPER
107.4 02-06-09 BEL Be One, Oostende (100W)
107.5 02-06-09 D BB R, Berlin *
107.6 02-06-09 D R KW, Wesel
107.6 02-06-09 BEL Costa FM, De Panne (100W)
107.7 02-06-09 BEL Crazy FM, Oostkamp (87W) *

A couple of observations to finish with: 
1. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of stations in Holland and Belgium due to network changes. 
2. Once the tropospheric conditions had subsided, the FM band returned to a very flat state. Possibly more so than usual. But the time of year probably had something to do with this. 

It takes months for the ground and sea temperatures to build after the winter months. Once the tropospheric DX had subsided this time, conditions on the FM broadcast band dropped off to a very poor level: The car radio produced very little in the way of continental DX whereas it is usually teeming with Dutch and french stations but, even with the XDR-RF1HD and loop antenna, the conditions were noticably the poorest I have personally experienced there. Temperatures got quite cold once the sun had gone down and the air had a distinct chill. 

There should still be plenty of continental stations to be heard if you use a good beam and a reasonably tall mast though, even if conditions are relatively poor, plus conditions are constantly changing wildly there. 

St Edmund's Church, Southwold

I think it is important to consider that it takes the whole summer season for ground and sea temperatures to build up in order to provide a useful level of propagation on the FM band. Conditions should be at their best from mid/late summer right through to January or possibly February. I once visited Sizewell on a freezing cold day in mid December and the FM band was alive with continental DX on just the car radio. So a word of warning if you are intending to visit this coastline purely for DXing purposes, you would probably benefit by waiting until July at the earliest before your visit, or just wait for a good spell of continental tropo. I know one experienced DXer who visited the Suffolk coast at Aldeburgh in March/April and heard nothing from the continent whatsoever. 

Some of the local wildlife

Just a point about the crazy weather in this country to finish off with. While we were away the temperatures reached 26 degrees centigrade. This was far warmer than was initially predicted by the Met Orifice. The high pressure was not forecast before we left home either. The weather remained dry and mostly sunny for our entire trip. But since returning home, the period between Friday 5th and Sunday 7th, we have had almost eight inches of rain following torrential rain and thunder storms. Today's temperature (7th) reached the dizzy heights of 7 degrees centigrade while two days ago people in Yorkshire were able to build snowmen. I wondered how this could be, but then I remembered - this IS the 'British' summer. I doubt you'd get this anywhere else! 

Good DX! 

FM Loop Antenna (Cubical Quad)
20 foot telescopic mast 

Sizewell nuclear power station

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

More Surprising DX At The Axe Edge

Am I insane?

Today Tim and I took another visit to the Axe Edge to see if our potentially record-breaking DX from May 5th would be heard a second time, thus confirming that our reception than was not a one-off. Thankfully, we still heard virtually all the continental stations we heard then, plus a few others. 

It has to be said that signals were slightly lower and we needed a little more patience, but our diligence paid off. Signals were mostly weak and fluttery but France was slightly stronger and the Rouen transmitter on 94.0 was strong enough to produce RDS data. 

The Log:  New additions are indicated by an asterisk
  87.6 12-06-09 D HR 3, Sackpfeife
  87.6 12-06-09 D NDR 2, Hamburg
  87.7 12-06-09 D Germany. Suspect NDR Info, Flensburg
  87.9 12-06-09 D NDR Info, Heide
  87.9 12-06-09 HOL Omroep Zeeland, Goes
  88.0 12-06-09 D Germany. Suspect WDR 5, Bonn
  88.0 12-06-09 F France Culture, Alencon (61)
  88.0 12-06-09 HOL NOS 2, Smilde
  88.2 12-06-09 HOL NOS 2, Roermond // 88.0
  88.4 12-06-09 HOL Slam FM, Roosendaal
  88.7 12-06-09 F France Musique, Lille (59)
  89.2 12-06-09 F France Musique, Reims (51)
  89.4 12-06-09 F France Musique, Boulogne (62)
  89.5 12-06-09 BEL VRT Klara, Sint Pieters Leeuw
  90.2 12-06-09 ? Unid Europe with pop music *
  90.2 12-06-09 D NDR Kultur, Lingen *
  90.2 12-06-09 F France Musique, Neufchatel-en-Bray
  90.4 12-06-09 BEL VRT Klara, Egem
  90.6 12-06-09 D WDR 5, Teutoburger Wald
  91.0 12-06-09 F France Musique, Alencon (61) *
  91.4 12-06-09 HOL NOS 2, Markelo
  91.6 12-06-09 HOL R Veronica, Amsterdam 4.37kW. Presumed in Dutch playing Skunk Anansie
  91.7 12-06-09 BEL VRT 1, Sint Pieters Leeuw *
  91.8 12-06-09 ? Unid. Classical music. Poss R Uylenspiegel
  91.8 12-06-09 HOL NOS 1, Smilde
  92.6 12-06-09 HOL NOS 2, Lopik *
  92.8 12-06-09 D NDR 1, Lingen
  92.8 12-06-09 BEL RTBF Musiq'3, Profondeville
  92.9 12-06-09 ? Unid. Classical?
  93.6 12-06-09 BEL Tentative R Contact, Egem
  93.8 12-06-09 D Bremen 1, Bremen
  94.0 12-06-09 F France Culture, Rouen "_CULTURE"
  95.6 12-06-09 ? Unid. French *
  95.6 12-06-09 G BBC R Norfolk, West Runton *
  96.8 12-06-09 F France Inter, Reims (51) *
  97.8 12-06-09 D NDR 2, Lingen *
  98.0 12-06-09 F France Culture, Lille
  98.1 12-06-09 D NDR 2, Aurich
  99.0 12-06-09 ? Unid. Pops. Possibly 80s music
  99.1 12-06-09 ? 2 x unid Europeans
  99.2 12-06-09 D WDR 2, Aachen // 100.8
  99.9 12-06-09 F France Culture, Boulogne (62)
100.0 12-06-09 D WDR 4, Munster
100.2 12-06-09 D R SH, Bungsberg. Presumed
100.8 12-06-09 D WDR 2, Langenberg // 99.2
101.2 12-06-09 D Bremen 4, Bremen
102.6 12-06-09 F France Bleu Basse Normandie, Caen (14) *
103.7 12-06-09 F France Inter, Lille (59) *

Good DX! 

John & Tim
Triax FM5 (five element yagi)
33 foot telescopic mast