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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer E Skip and FT8!

from Anthony Luscre, K8ZT on July 28, 2019
View comments about this article!

Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Don't Miss Your Chance with Summer E Skip and FT8
Anthony Luscre, K8ZT

You may have heard the doom and gloom about being in the depths of the 11 Year Sunspot Cycle:

gNo propagation above 20 Metersh
gTen is dead!h
gMight as well sell the radioh
gThe sun will never returnh
gItfs 80 & 160 Meters only for the next few yearsh
g#$@&%*!h

Well, the idea to concentrate on 160 and 80 Meters is a good idea, but not until late fall or winter. In the meantime, there is a way to make contacts on 6, 10 or 12 Meters most days of the week by taking advantage of the summer enhanced E Skip season and the new mode of FT8.

Typically during high sunspot activity (solar flux) ionization of the F layer of the atmosphere facilitates refraction of signals on higher HF bands allowing worldwide communications. The E layer is below the F layer and is responsible for a propagation type known to abnormally effect VHF and higher HF frequencies called Sporadic E or E skip. This happens went ionized particles appear in the E layer of the ionosphere. Sporadic E as the name implies occurs sporadically throughout the year and is not dependent on 11-year sunspot cycle. In the Northern hemisphere, sporadic E activities are more frequent during the summer months.

The lower height of the E layer results in shorter skips than the F layer. During sporadic E events, the E layer becomes heavily ionized in specific small thin areas, sometimes called clouds. This can last a few minutes or up to several hours. The effect is normally more pronounced with lower frequencies. The short duration of this type of propagation can mean openings can easily be missed so frequent monitoring of bands is important. Fortunately, in this internet age, there are, of course, websites that can predict or at least define sporadic E, DXMaps.com has maps similar to the one below.

Another good way to monitor activity, especially with FT8 contacts is PSK Reporter.

Speaking of FT8, it is a great way to maximize your number of contacts during the sometimes marginal propagation characteristics of Sporadic E. For information on FT8 visit www.k8zt.com/digital. Sporadic E is available for all license classes as Technicians have privileges for all modes on 6 Meters and voice and CW on 10 Meters (FT8 is not yet included for Techs on 10 M).

In addition to PSK Reporter, visit www.k8zt.com/propagationwww.k8zt.com/propagation for other Propagation and Spotting Resources.

The table below shows contacts made at K8ZT during the months of May 2018 to June of 2019 with a power output of 5 watts. The antenna was a 3 element beam at 50 feet.

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by KJ4DGE on July 28, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
While FT8 is now the go-to mode for DX during these times, don't forget that voice on these same bands is possible. 20 meters has had a S6-7 noise level over the past 3 days but parts of it in my area even with all the RFI of being in the middle of downtown Leesburg allowed me to work KC4ZGP in Warner Robbins, GA. on 20. Parts of 10 and 6 open up to skip as well, but if you are not listening when it happens you will miss it.

Early morning on the east coast favors 9:15 till 9:45 EST and 13:20-14:45 then later in the afternoon the window opens again. I am sure this is the same for FT8 modes on the east coast. Hope to see some fellow Hams in Berryville next Sunday

73 de KJ4DGE
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K6AER on July 28, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Calling people up on your cell phone with random numbers is more fun than HF digital.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K8QV on July 28, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
K6AER made me lol. <<< "Calling people up on your cell phone with random numbers is more fun than HF digital. " >>>
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by KQ6XA on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
.
Sporadic E is peaking!

Today, there is a massive Sporadic E opening in the eastern USA.
S9+ signals.

Studies have shown that Sporadic E is better during the years between the peaks of solar cycles.
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by K7ZOV on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
"A MIND IS LIKE A PARACHUTE...IT ONLY WORKS WHEN IT IS OPEN"... Reading this <<< "Calling people up on your cell phone with random numbers is more fun than HF digital. " >>> This tells me that at least two minds are very closed when it comes to digital. I have been using digital since shortly after PSK31 can about. Weekly I use WSJT-X(FT8, JT-65) as well as some PSK31 and Olivia. I have fun with them all. With conditions the way they are with this solar cycle, which might last longer then people want to hear or admit . I generally start off with SSB, my first choice. I do some CW, but my CW sucks and I am trying to fix that with more and more on the air CW pollution. If the band is really bad I will give PSK or Olvia a shot. If the band is dead I will go to FT8 and 99% of the time make contacts. If things really get bad I will try Sat with my eggbeater antennas.

I have a open mind and don't limited my thinking or my options like so many old farts who have barely figured out SSB and CW and not much more.. I have not made any 2 meter FT8 or digital contacts to date, however I have made hundreds of 12, 10, and 6 meter contacts when the bands were suppose to be dead. Lots of fun all of it,,,, But you have to open you mind and give it a chance and get on the air and call CQ. No luck, change modes form SSB to CW then PSK then FT8 or JT-65 or JT-9. If you do you will make contacts...
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K0CBA on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
by K6AER ......"Calling people up on your cell phone with random numbers is more fun than HF digital."

In my opinion, a truly enlightened and well worded response !!!!!!!!
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K2FW on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
It's not just digital. It's sub-audible. Should've never been included by the ARRL into the mixed category with all of the other modes that have to be audibly heard. And that includes RTTY.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K2FW on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
It's not just digital. It's sub-audible. Should've never been included by the ARRL into the mixed category with all of the other modes that have to be audibly heard. And that includes RTTY.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K8QV on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
<<< "I have a open mind and don't limited my thinking or my options like so many old farts who have barely figured out SSB and CW and not much more." >>>

At least you "don't limited your thinking." As for this old fart, I dove into all the latest digital modes as they kept coming along. Gave it a good try but after every session with it I felt unfulfilled. Not fun for me. Boring as hell. Is my thinking limited or do we just have different interests???
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by NY7Q on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I work CW daily. Usually on 20 and 40. Been CW OP since 1953, tried all the digital modes, but was bored stiff. I enjoy CW/ssb/am. Been a CW OP since 1953. I stay on the lower extreme ends of the bands. FT8 just plain bores me to no end.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by KC6RWI on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Calling people on the cell phone is not more fun than Hf digital,, they all want to talk once you reach them.
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by G8FXC on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Following last weekend's IOTA contest, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the success of FT8 is not so much down to the transmission characteristics of the mode as down to the fact that there are no humans involved and computers don't get bored. My rig is nothing very special - 100w transceiver driving a relatively short random wire via an auto-tuner and a 9:1 Unun which helps to reduce the losses of an untuned antenna down a coax cable. On most occasions, I can call CQ for hours without getting a response and I can reply to an Italian or Ukrainian station which is clearly running a kilowatt into a beam calling "CQ DX" and expect to be ignored.

Strangely, all the physics of transmission and propagation magically change as the IOTA contest starts. Stations that apparently were not hearing me an hour ago suddenly notice me and come back with 5/9 reports.

So, is FT8 so successful because of the modulation, or is it down to the fact that most FT8 QSOs have zero human input? The FT8 software on the PC is not generally programmed to not bother talking to a G8 on the grounds that it is in some way boring. All those PCs are simply sitting there, in charge of transceivers and antennas, and keeping a record of all the other PCs they have managed to contact!
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K7ZOV on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
In your case different interest... You gave it try.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by AA4PB on July 29, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Some of you must have different FT8 software than I do. My computer will set there all day copying FT8 DX stations and never initiate a call to any of them. The only way it will answer a CQ is if I double-click on the call sign. That seems like human interaction required to me. My software doesn't initiate a CQ call by itself either.

. or maybe the people claiming that FT8 requires no human interaction have never actually operated the mode.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by N4KC on July 30, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
AA4PB:

Exactly! And if you think there is no human interaction required, try getting through to semi-rare DX on FT8 or attempt to find new countries or states or zones on the mode and work them. I maintain it takes a great deal of skill to successfully do any of that. I have not yet figured out how to tell my computer that I need Tennessee for WAS on 6, to have it search for a Tennessee station, and to go ahead and work him while I snoozed. Instead, I watched the spots, saw the opening, watched and waited until I saw a station in a grid that included Tennessee, then moved up and down the band calling him in what appeared to be open spots until I got him, and then clicked on the required buttons to log the contact and upload to LoTW. If you have written the code to accomplish all that unattended, you could probably sell it for a nice price!

Ragchew? Nope, not the mode. Fun? For some of us, absolutely!

Then someone says, "Where's the fun in working DX when it becomes so easy?"

Well, maybe you should also abandon such other fun-killers as SDRs, band scopes, computer-designed Yagis, DX spotting networks, amplifiers, and such buzz-eliminators as SSB.

Bring back spark gap in the name of human interaction!

Bottom line: if you enjoy it, enjoy it. If you don't, why knock it? Enjoy what you enjoy and I'll enjoy what I enjoy! At least one of the things I enjoy takes very little bandwidth. And, apparently, requires very little in the way of recruiting participants.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by KW6LA on July 31, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Worth Repeating : Calling people up on your cell phone with random numbers is more fun than HF digital. K6AER funny, as I say live chat with Guitar Center online !
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by W5TD on July 31, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
"Exactly! And if you think there is no human interaction required, try getting through to semi-rare DX on FT8 or attempt to find new countries or states or zones on the mode and work them. I maintain it takes a great deal of skill to successfully do any of that. I have not yet figured out how to tell my computer that I need Tennessee for WAS on 6, to have it search for a Tennessee station, and to go ahead and work him while I snoozed. Instead, I watched the spots, saw the opening, watched and waited until I saw a station in a grid that included Tennessee, then moved up and down the band calling him in what appeared to be open spots until I got him."

AA4PB, please stop confusing this issue by adding facts and logic!
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by N4MQ on July 31, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
We all spend too much of our lives typing on the computer. the lack of human interaction is an issue, and digital is functional but dry to me. Its like the kid sitting at the dinner table with his phone taking up all attention.

For me the other modes offer more positive feedback and I just choose to avoid the digital rabbit (black) hole. Enjoy sporatic E.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by AA4MB on July 31, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I must admit, I belly laughed at some of the comments. My bottom line on digital is that I've tried it and - with the sole exception of Olivia - I have experienced the same lack of interest as have some folks. And, it's for some of the same reasons - and a few different ones as well. I concur with the fact that I find many, if not most, most digital QSOs to be rote and from my perspective, they lack soul. I got into PSK for a short time and actually liked it. After a while, however, folks seemed to have discovered their macros and I got the same contacts, again and again, save with different call signs. Yes, I understand that signal strength expressed in a precise and exact figure is more 'helpful' - but things like that seem to take the human element out of it for me. I lost count of how many operators really seemed to not understand how to progress with a QSO once the normal, obligatory macros were out of the way. I'd ask a question and be met with no response at all outside of "73, good DX!" or something similar. For some reason, my Olivia seemed to differ significantly - and I still find Olivia fascinating to hear when I'm puttering around in the shack. Alas ... it has been largely supplanted by the FT/JT formats, much like PSK.

If I'm totally objective, I'll admit that even CW QSOs are not satisfying once the signal report, QTH, name, rig and weather are supplied and the other guy wants to move on. But let's face it ... many of us are introverts at heart and just don't like to *converse* very much. Period.

Personally, I find a great benefit in FT8 ... when I hear the screeching on the FT8 frequency, I know the band is at least open to somewhere. And, it's nearly always open to SOMEWHERE. Let those that want to use the rubber stamps when they communicate have at it, whether digital, CW or anything else - if it interests them and it doesn't infringe upon me, why should I criticize them?

- Matt, AA4MB
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K0UA on July 31, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
"If I'm totally objective, I'll admit that even CW QSOs are not satisfying once the signal report, QTH, name, rig and weather are supplied and the other guy wants to move on. But let's face it ... many of us are introverts at heart and just don't like to *converse* very much. Period. "

This is the essential crux of the matter. The MAJORITY of hams do not want to carry on QSO's with other hams. This is why FT8 is so popular. There is NO actual conversation required and the contacts can still be made for awards. And this is also why FT8 has KILLED the other digital modes. They at least offered the pretense of conversation. With FT8 you no longer have to pretend to converse. Sure there are a cadre of hams who enjoy conversing with there fellow hams but they are without a doubt in the minority. Haven't we all had phone QSO's where we tried to start a conversation with the guy on the other end and it is like pulling teeth? You practically have to beat anything out of them more than a stock answer using the fewest possible words. Well FT8 to the rescue again. It is what it is and those of us that are verbose ain't going to fix it anytime soon.
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by K4JPN on August 1, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Last night 31 Jul 19 at approx. 0100Z I was on 20M CW and could not hear anyone. I checked the SKCC sked page and saw ZL2BLQ was on 14.051 looking for straight key calls. I pointed my beam (3 ele tribander at 33 feet running 100W) towards New Zealand and gave him a call. He came right back with a 559. I later heard him working other US stations. I don't think the bands are dead, maybe poor conditions, but you can work DX. It is apparent conditions are not great, but when I look at FT8 and see all sorts of DX, I think people have just not trying the CW and SSB modes.
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by AE4TA on August 1, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I am missing the Cold War when there was a lot of interesting stuff on short wave, and DX for the hams.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by ONAIR on August 1, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
10 meters has been open a lot lately, with a good amount of SSB activity! Even the CBers have been having a field day on 11 meters. Their signals are actually dwarfing 10 and 12 meter activity on the band scopes!
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by HA7WX on August 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
You don't even need the ease of FT8 to make contacts on these bands.
They indeed open to such an extent, that sigs well over s9 happen for example on 10m.
The bands can wide open and provide awesome contacts.
Worth giving calls.
If no one calls, there's no propagation LOL.
So CALL !!!
And no need for yagis, i have had in the pas months great contact whilst portable with either 20W or 90W and a telescopic antenna and 1 tuned radial.
Also, as the article says, E skip to be expected, so shorter distances, yet, this is skip !
Enjoy ! 73 de ha7wx chris
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by K2DFC on August 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
One big problem as I see it is FT-8 is a fad. How long will contacts that only require a few mouse clicks and no conversation hold everyone's interest. BORING. It's the lazy mans mode. Long live CW.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K8ZT on August 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Just a reminder the contacts listed n this article included CW, SSB, RTTY, FT8 and FT4; not just FT8.

My number one emphasis is to get on the air. A contact in any mode is better than no contact at all and complaining about dead bands but refusing to use all possible modes doesn't seem to best use of our time.

The thing I especially like about FT8 & FT4 is it gives non-east coast stations like me a chance to work more DX on 6 Meters during sunspot minimum.

Hope to work you all on any band or mode!
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by W4HM on August 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I make many QSO's on 6, 10 and 12 meters every summer sporadic E (Es) radio wave propagation season. Most of it though is via digital modes such as JT65A, JT9 and FT8 but also some SSB and CW.
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by W4HM on August 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I make many QSO's on 6, 10 and 12 meters every summer sporadic E (Es) radio wave propagation season. Most of it though is via digital modes such as JT65A, JT9 and FT8 but also some SSB and CW.

Sometimes summer Es also shows up on 15, 17 and 20 meters.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by K8ZT on August 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
By the way if you currently do not use CW and are interested in adding this to your operating modes take a look at "Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting on HF Bands" here on eHam (https://www.eham.net/articles/42909)
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by WW7KE on August 3, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
"One big problem as I see it is FT-8 is a fad. How long will contacts that only require a few mouse clicks and no conversation hold everyone's interest. BORING. It's the lazy mans mode. Long live CW. "

Well, you got one thing right: It's not a conversation mode, but it's not designed to be. It is a mode that allows hams like me with limited facilities, whether lower power or small antennas, to enjoy ham radio. It gets through when CW does not.

It also has 5-10 times the activity in a 2.5 kHz sliver of a given band than the entire rest of the band (all modes) combined, other than during contests. That hardly describes a "fad."

Whether you like it or not, digital modes (RTTY --> PSK31 --> JT65 --> FT8 --> who knows?) are now an Amateur Radio standard. The ham fraternity, old timers and younger folks alike, has made that decision on its own, just like they did with SSB 60 years ago (with resultant whining and sniveling by the bitter old geezers of the day). It's definitely not for everybody, but neither is any other mode.

If you don't like it, don't use it. There's room for everybody. But don't trash a mode that you are obviously not all that familiar with until you actually use it.
 
RE: Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Sum  
by VK3YE on August 6, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
SSB can also do well. Some examples of 10m pedestrian mobile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSCt5iT2GOs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nya0MOmtN14

And 6m too!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHfnIbOWbJQ
 
Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Use Summer  
by VK3KTT on September 12, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
i enjoy these bands immensely i prefer ssb and when signals are strong enough i switch to ssb . with digital mode ft8 and jt65 i have managed some excellent contact vk3 to lu2 on 6m barefoot on jt65 i have been heard by the us on 6m in your winter note this is not single hop E's but multi hop E's. and japan funny thing was workign japan on 6m signal were huge +7+9 in ft8 i send a message qsy ssb/cw with a freq only 1 ja out of the hordes 15 -20 worked in 1 hour on 6m qsyed to cw and a t was made nil to ssb i have worked 15 dxcc on 6m in the last 12 months and i live in vk3 where the closest dx is 2000 miles away. give it a try its a great was to find band openings . keep an eye out for me on these bands i look to the us most days around 00:00-03:00 utc
73
Steve
de vk3ktt / k3ktt
 
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