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More Frequent Spotless Days Now, Can Signal Solar Activity in the Future
We entered the Cycle 24 solar minimum with the onset of 8 spotless days in June 2016, Donovan pointed out. We had only 32 spotless days in 2016. We had 15 spotless days in a row in March 2017, followed by relatively infrequent spotless days for the next 7 months.
The frequency of spotless days accelerated in early November 2017, with 13 spotless days in a row. That was followed by many more spotless days over the next 5 months. In all, 2017 experienced 104 spotless days (see chart).
The frequency of spotless days accelerated again last month, when we had 25 spotless days, Donovan noted. Weve already had 54 spotless days during the first quarter of 2018. This data and comparisons to frequent spotless days during the last solar minimum suggests that we may have just begun a period of very frequent spotless days for approximately the next 2 years, similar to the period of September 2007 through January 2009.
Donovan said the next solar precursor is frequent extended periods of spotless days. For example, 2016 saw 14 spotless days in a row, March 2017 had 15, November 2017 saw 13, and early March experienced 14.
Long periods of spotless days will become even more frequent as we go deeper into solar minimum, Donovan predicted. Once extended periods of spotless days become more frequent, another solar precursor will become important, he said.
New high-latitude, opposite-polarity Cycle 25 sunspots will then begin to appear more frequently, perhaps by late next year, Donovan said. More frequent Cycle 25 sunspots will signal that were approaching the bottom of the [Cycle 24] solar minimum phase.
An ongoing solar precursor that could herald the future strength of Cycle 25 is the intensity of the solar polar magnetic fields prior to the Cycle 24 solar minimum, Donovan said. The good news is that the solar polar magnetic field strength is already slightly stronger than it was prior to the last solar minimum, he said. This suggests that Cycle 25 will be somewhat stronger than Cycle 24.
Donovan said if the long periods of spotless days end in about a year, that will be a precursor of a stronger Cycle 25. If they take more than 2 years to end, however, it will portend a weaker Cycle 25.
He takes issue with reports suggesting that the solar minimum has arrived, based entirely on the very frequent incidence of spotless days over the past 6 weeks. More comprehensive physical evidence suggests its more likely that weve just begun a lengthy deep solar minimum phase similar to late 2007 through late 2008 thats likely to last well into next year, he told The Daily DX. He said solar polar magnetic field strength peaks at least 1 year before solar minimum, and, while the south polar region peaked last year, the north polar region has not yet done so, suggesting that solar minimum is not likely to occur until 2019 at the earliest.
Schools Ham Contact with Space Station Raises Amateur Radio Visibility in Alabama
An Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) school contact with crew member Ricky Arnold, KE5DAU, was a huge success on more than one level. Fifteen students at Pinson Valley High School in Alabama had the opportunity to chat via ham radio on April 10 in a direct contact with Arnold, who was at the helm of NA1SS for his inaugural ARISS contact. Witnessing the event in the packed school auditorium was an audience of 650 invited guests and students, while the remaining 1,150 members of the student body watched from their classrooms. The event was livestreamed to all 57 schools in the district.
The ISS contact was a very valuable experience for the student body and the 15 select students that formulated and asked the questions, and great exposure for Amateur Radio! said Alabaman and ARRL Southeastern Division Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK.
The event attracted considerable media attention from TV news crews and a print reporter. The radio contact was then followed by a motivational speech from a US Navy Seal team member, after which four Navy Seals and Pinson Valleys vice principal parachuted onto the schools football field, Sarratt recounted.
English teacher Jennifer Moore, KF4INA, who served as the spark plug for the ARISS event, praised the support of Huntsville Amateur Radio Club members, who had help from the Birmingham and Blount County Amateur Radio clubs.
Three TV stations posted stories on the ARISS event, WVTM, WBRC, and CBS42. A story in the Trussville Tribune included a comment from Pinson City Council member and radio amateur Robbie Roberts, WB4WUI, who attended Pinson Valley High and went on to get an engineering degree. I think its great exposure for these kids, he told the reporter.
Roberts later told ARRL, I thought the event was excellent and was a welcome bright spot for our community. He said his grandfather worked for NASA for many years and was significantly involved in work on SkyLab in the 1970s, so the combination of ham radio and the ISS was of great interest.
ISS Ham Project Coordinator Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, commended the cooperation of Alabama Power, which resolved a RF interference issue that would have affected the contact. The utility went to the extent of shutting down a substation to quiet the radio noise so that the contact could go forward.-ARRL Letter
The proposed additional HF phone privileges are 3.900 to 4.000 MHz, 7.225 to 7.300 MHz, and 21.350 to 21.450 MHz. Technicians already have HF privileges on parts of 10 meters.
Some in the Amateur Radio community have questioned the need for expanded Technician privileges or to express other perspectives. ARRL has responded to point out some of the key advantages of its petition, which recognizes the tremendous technological advances and changes in Amateur Radio. Some key points:
# A thorough review of operating privileges available to the entry-level license has not taken place since the late 1970s, when the Novice-class license -- the entry-level license at that time, and no longer issued -- was modified to allow Novices access to a limited portion of 10 meters. This included the first HF phone privileges for Novices.
# The 2-year process that led to the development of ARRL's petition includes significant input from the Amateur Radio community. The two surveys that the ARRL board's Entry-Level License (ELL) Committee conducted on this issue drew more than 8,000 responses from ARRL members.
# The 378,000 Technician licensees comprise more than half of the US Amateur Radio population, yet the Technician-class license no longer serves its original purpose from 18 years ago. Many Technicians do not participate actively, pursue on-air and public service opportunities, renew their licenses, or upgrade. An uncomfortably large attrition rate exists among Technician licensees. Technician licenses are not upgrading, because they don't find their operating privileges interesting enough to keep them in the hobby.
# The proposed addition of 275 kilohertz of HF phone privileges, spread across 80, 40, and 15 meters, would allow Technicians the opportunity to develop and expand their understanding of HF propagation. In addition, this proposed change would allow Technician licensees to participate in public service-oriented, emergency, and Section traffic nets on 75 meters, from 3900 to 4000 kHz, where primary state/Section-wide public service activities often take place.
# Additional operating privileges for Technicians will not limit their incentive to upgrade. ARRL points out that Technicians now have access to 850 kilohertz of spectrum in four HF bands. ARRL proposes an additional 275 kilohertz on three of those bands, so the total under this proposal is 1,125 kilohertz on four bands -- 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.
Compare that to current General-class HF privileges: 3150 kilohertz across nine HF bands -- 160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 meters. In addition, Generals have access to the five 60-meter channels and to the two newest bands, 2200 and 630 meters. The incentive to upgrade from Technician to General is a tripling of the available HF spectrum; upgrading to General allows access to eight additional bands, including the prime daytime bands of 20 and 17 meters. Also, Technicians upgrading to General or higher are permitted the maximum amateur power level of 1500 W PEP.
History: A Century of Amateur Radio and the ARRL
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