The Perseids Meteor Shower has started and it is already obvious that there are a few Perseid meteors around. This gets VHF operators all excitable because when the shower peaks meteor scatter can be a very effective means of communication indeed. It is quite entertaining as well especially on 2m where the traditional VHF free for all takes place at the peak of of the major meteor showers.
The 2013 peak is due to occur between 18:00 UTC and 21:00 UTC on Monday 12th August. The Zenithal Hourly Rate of the Perseids is 100, which means that given a clear sky an observer should see 100 meteor trails in an hour. In my experience when the Perseids peak it is always cloudy! The best visual display that I ever saw was the Leonids meteor storm on 17th November 1999. In the short drive from up the M1 Barnsley to Wakefield I counted over 40 bright meteors. It really was incredible. At that time the club had a battered and broken 14 element MET yagi and a barefoot Yaesu FT736. I worked 110 stations and literally heard F/G8MBI and 9A1CCY continuously at S9 for over 7 hours. It was truly amazing.
Here is some video footage from 2001 which was no where near as good. I remember the meteors burning up low to the horizon and being quite green in colour.
First a bit of background for newcomers or people who have never even realised that Meteor Scatter was viable for them, rather than re-invent the wheel I will direct you to an excellent explanation of the ‘science’ behind what meteor scatter is and how it works.
Just follow the link below
The G3WZT page is biased slightly towards 144 MHz operation which is very popular in Europe. However MS reflections on 50 MHz and 70 MHz are typically stronger and longer. Successful QSOs can be made with very modest equipment indeed, even if you don’t feel ready to make QSOs it is definitely worth a listen. You can also listen to meteor scatter on a simple car stereo. Find a clear frequency (I use 87.5 MHz) and just listen late evening or early morning, you will hear the meteor bursts coming through from various parts of Europe.
Meteor bursts will be mainly short but many can be over 10 seconds for instance I heard a 20 second burst from a station on 4m on Saturday.
- During the GJ4NOK operation we worked a station running 10W to an indoor dipole at 800 kms on Meteor Scatter.
- I have worked a station in Belarus who was running 10W to a 4 ele at the peak of the Perseids shower on 144 MHz – I was using a 9 ele and 100W.
- In recent months I have worked many stations on 4m with just 16W to a 6 ele on 4m
Because of the short nature of meteor reflections high speed data methods are regularly employed nowadays, by far the most popular of which is FSK441 mode. This can be accessed by using the excellent WSJT software from Joe Taylor W1JT. FSK441 allows the exchange of both calls and a report in a short time, this is obviously variable depending on the length of the call-signs used but in my experience both calls and a report are available in less than 0.2 seconds with a clean decode. It works very well indeed.
Have a look here:
This is what we used at GJ4NOK for the MS QSOs. As there was no Sporadic E propagation FSK441 accounted for 50% of the contacts we had.
If there is sufficient interest I will set up a demo of meteor scatter using 6 and 4m using FSK441 on Thursday night.
If you are interested just leave a comment below.